Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2018
Source: News, The (New Glasgow, CN NS)
Copyright: 2018 Transcontinental Inc.
Author: Fram Dinshaw
Page: A3


New Glasgow Police Chief Eric MacNeil is worried the legalization of
marijuana will cause a spike in potentially lethal drug-impaired driving.

Making the problem worse is that police have no equipment such as
breathalyzers that can easily and quickly detect marijuana in
suspected impaired drivers.

Instead, police must typically rely on expert drug-recognition
officers to visually detect the effects of marijuana, such as trouble
concentrating or hallucinations. Blood and urine samples can also be

"It causes me great concern. We are in the business of public safety,"
said MacNeil.

In American states like Colorado that have already legalized
marijuana, police have reported a surge in deaths caused by
drug-impaired drivers. Colorado's government first legalized marijuana
in November 2012.

>From 2013-15, Colorado authorities reported a 40 per cent increase in
the number of all drivers involved in fatal crashes, from 627 to 880,
as reported by The Denver Post.

The number of Colorado drivers testing positive for alcohol in fatal
crashes rose from 129 to 151, or 17 per cent, between 2013 and 2015.

But the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana use
skyrocketed by 145 per cent, from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016. During
this time, the prevalence of testing drivers for marijuana use did not
significantly change, according to the Post.

"They've had an increase in impaired drivers and that is a concern to
us as police chiefs and police officers," said MacNeil.

Presently, dealing with any impaired driver takes roughly three hours,
including making an arrest, testing, charging then finally releasing
the suspect.

If the suspect does not cooperate or is otherwise unable to provide a
breath or other sample, such as when seriously injured, the process
takes longer.

The last resort for police is taking a blood test from a suspected
impaired driver.

However, there is only one lab in all of Canada that can test blood
samples and it has a massive backlog. If it takes more than 18 months
to get the case to court, the charges will be dismissed.

"It's going to have an impact on human resources," said

With nationwide marijuana legalization just months away, MacNeil said
that everything from more drug-recognition officers to new bylaws
governing the public consumption of marijuana is needed.

For example, the fine for publicly consuming alcohol is roughly $400,
but the proposed fine for carrying more than 30 grams of marijuana
would only be $200, according to MacNeil.

MacNeil wondered if there would be designated public spaces for people
to consume marijuana, similar to smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.

Also worrying police is youth access to marijuana, with the
possibility of students coming into school stoned.

However, the evidence may suggest otherwise. In 2001, Portugal
decriminalized the use of all drugs. While still illegal, anyone
caught with drugs will only receive a small fine and be offered
treatment. And the Portuguese approach is working: overdose deaths
have plunged and drug use has not risen.

"I can only hope that would be the same thing," said MacNeil of
Canada's drive to legalize marijuana.
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