HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Driving Already Illegal
Pubdate: Thu, 29 Apr 2004
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 The Lethbridge Herald
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


We have the breathalyser. Can a potalyser be next?

A proposed federal law would give police the power to compel drivers 
suspected of impairment by drug use to submit to saliva, blood or urine 
samples. Existing law makes such testing voluntary.

Police across the country, opposed to decriminalizing marijuana, say the 
proposed legislation is a sign Ottawa anticipates a rise in drug-addled 
drivers as a result of legalizing pot, and suggest dangers on our roads 
will be just one of many social ills to come.

In fact, drug users already present a hazard on the roads. A release from 
the Canada Safety Council quotes a national survey in 2002 which found 1.5 
per cent of drivers surveyed had used mairjuana within two hours of driving 
in the past year. A study in Quebec issued that same year found cannabis 
was detected in 19.5 per cent of driver fatalities. Users of marijuana say 
their pot use is a matter of personal choice. But their right to choose 
only extends as far as other's rights to safety on our roads.

We're just not convinced the law compelling suspect drivers to submit to 
drug testing will make roads safer.

Testing someone for drug use is simply not as clear cut as testing for 
alcohol. You can't just breathe into a device at the roadside to find out 
whether you're under the influence of cannabis. And there is no established 
legal standard for impairment, such as the 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 
millilitres of blood.

It's more intrusive, and one would guess, expensive, to screen a blood or 
urine sample for a myriad of drugs or other pharmaceuticals that could be 
impairing someone's ability to drive.

And why would a test of someone's bodily fluids even be necessary? Once 
we've decriminalized pot, do we care if a driver's urine is laced with 
tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis? As well, THC can 
stay in the blood stream for weeks after marijuana use, so how accurately 
will testing be in determining whether the drugs were the cause of impairment.

Rather, the decision to charge someone with impaired driving can be done as 
it is now -- through the observations and discretion of the law enforcement 
officer, who has already witnessed erratic driving, glassy eyes, odd 
behaviour and other signs the person may not be fit to drive. The key 
determination is that a driver is impaired. The cause of the impairment is 

The federal Criminal Code already covers impaired driving, whether that be 
by alcohol or drugs. And Alberta's highway safety legislation gives police 
with "reasonable grounds" the option of issuing a 24-hour suspension to 
anyone whose physical or mental abilities have been impaired, whether by 
booze, drugs (legal or illicit) or other factors.

Those suspensions are enough to keep impaired drivers off the road 
temporarily. Such suspensions send a message to drivers about their 
responsibilities when they get behind the wheel.

And until drug testing is refined and improved, existing impaired driving 
laws and the consequences of a 24-hour suspension give Alberta's police the 
tools they need to keep impaired drivers off the street.
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