Pubdate: Fri, 25 Aug 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Gillian Slade
Page: A5


Cannabis will not be the panacea everyone with an ailment is thinking
it will be, says a local physician, and it is going to challenge law
enforcement when it comes to impaired driving.

"If there ever has been an issue in medicine as clouded by opinion and
ignorance, it is medical cannabis," said Dr. Gaylord Wardell,
anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Medicine Hat.

The pro-cannabis forces have claimed everything from cancer cures to
relief from pain but we don't actually have research to verify this,
said Wardell.

"We will never know until research on a broad scale is done in North
America, and doctors and politicians remove their prejudicial filters
and actually look at the data," said Wardell. "Much data is available
in other countries but since it is not from here we are not required
to look at it."

So far only a small number of Canadian doctors are authorized to
prescribe medical marijuana but the number of prescriptions has
increased quickly and will continue to do so, said Wardell.

Whether you are using cannabis or taking sleeping pills,
anti-psychotics, benzodiazepines, anti-nauseants and antihistamines
you may be impaired when it comes to driving a vehicle, said Wardell.

"Our officers have always and will always look for signs of impairment
that include all substances," said Insp. Joe West, MHPS operational
services division.

The Criminal Code makes it illegal to drive with more than 80 mg of
alcohol in 100 ml of blood, said West. This is measured with an
approved instrument that is recognized by the courts.

"There is no such instrument to measure the amount of drugs in a
person's body," said West.

Impaired driving is an issue front and centre with the legalization of
marijuana to take effect in less than a year. West says it is one of
the most significant public safety concerns for police.

There is no approved technology for measuring the amount of THC (the
compound in marijuana responsible for the impairment) in a driver's
blood, nor is there any threshold measurement for impairment like the
blood alcohol limit, said West. Police cannot investigate an
impairment by marijuana in the same objective way as with alcohol 

"Law enforcement is waiting for government direction on this and many
other aspects of the legalization of marijuana," said West.

The Criminal Code Section 253(1)(a) states, "impaired by alcohol or a
drug." The challenge police face is linking the impairment to a drug
and not alcohol. This is often difficult to do.

"Officers note the signs of impairment (slurred speech, glassy eyes,
poor balance, etc.) the same as they do for an alcohol impaired
driver, and then note the reasons how they linked the impairment to a
drug (drug pipe in the car, witnesses observing the driver using drugs
prior to driving, medications found on the person, prior dealings with
the driver, admissions from the driver, etc.)," said West. "These
types of investigations are sometimes harder to conduct than typical
impaired (by alcohol) investigations."
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