Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2017
Source: Niagara Falls Review, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Niagara Falls Review
Author: Allan Benner
Page: A1


With the federal government's legalization of marijuana planned for
July 1, 2018, if not sooner, Niagara police hope to have technology in
place to catch stoned drivers before that date.

"I'd say it would be foolhardy not to be ready if you're going to
legalize something, and not give police services the tools to enforce
that," said Niagara Regional Police Staff Sgt. Rome Di Egidio.

While roadside testing has been done for decades to determine if a
driver has been drinking alcohol, he said police are currently
wondering how their jobs will be impacted by the pending legalization
of marijuana.

"How are we going to do that (roadside testing) one year from now?" he
asked while speaking at a CAA Niagara media conference.

"I think you can all see how that's going to be a huge challenge that
we're looking at," Di Egidio said.

Niagara police Chief Jeff McGuire also called drug-impaired driving "a
huge challenge for us."

"But we're confident that something will be in place before they
decriminalize it," McGuire added.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, who was in Niagara attending an
Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police conference, said police are
concerned about "having the ability and the tools for officers to deal
with situations like impaired driving by drugs."

Bordeleau, the OACP president, said police officers need access to
"the equipment, technology to be able to measure a level of
intoxication with respect to impairment by drugs."

Di Egidio said police currently charge motorists for drug-impaired
operation of a motor-vehicle by calling in a drug recognition expert.

If a police officer suspects a driver is impaired by drugs, Di Egidio
said the "highly-trained" experts are called to the scene to conduct
tests to determine if the police officer's suspicions were correct as
well as the type of drug the driver might have taken. Although the use
of breathalyzers at the roadside has made it relatively easy to
determine if a driver has been drinking alcohol, Di Egidio said such a
device "does not exist yet for drugs."

Prototype devices for detecting drug use are currently being tested in
jurisdictions across Canada including Toronto. The devices can test a
driver's saliva for traces of the drugs including cocaine, marijuana
and methamphetamines.

Since the start of this year, police in Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver
have been asking volunteers to provide saliva samples as part of a
pilot project to see how effective the devices are in use.

"Obviously the policing world is waiting to see what that device is
and how it's going to be used," Di Egidio said.

Bordeleau said new legislation will also be required to allow police
officers to use that equipment to arrest drug-intoxicated drivers.

Asked if the devices will be ready before July 1, 2018, Di Egidio
said: "I certainly hope so."

Aside from the concerns regarding drug-impaired drivers, McGuire said
the transition itself will pose a challenge for police.

"It's going to be a difficult year," McGuire said.

Despite the pending legislation, McGuire said marijuana "is still

"We've seen that already in our enforcement as the laws are in the
process of changing, but they're not changed yet."

He urged people to "abide by the rules and we'll be

McGuire said the OACP had been lobbying to allow police officers to
issue tickets to people with small amounts of marijuana.

"We wouldn't have to commence a criminal offence and bog down the
courts for small amounts of marijuana use," he said.
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