West Manchester Township Police Officer Adam Bruckhart, left, and York Area Regional Police Officer Mike Georgiou observe a driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol as he performs a field sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint on the business loop of Interstate 83 Friday, April 23, 2010. The driver was later arrested on suspicion of DUI. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN
With legal cannabis comes new impaired driving laws.
And it ain’t good.
Bill C-46 overhauls impaired driving laws so police now have more power (and the tools) to charge drivers. The Bill also makes it easier for courts to ram through impaired driving cases quicker.
In the same way police do roadside breath tests (more on that in a minute), they can now demand saliva samples to detect the presence of THC, cocaine or meth.
They’ll have to have reasonable suspicion before demanding a test, but more often than not, the term “reasonable” is on a sliding scale. Tilting toward the cop’s favour.
Of course, there are no such devices to test for impairment via saliva.
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will decide which devices are approved for use, but officials told the Senate committee that they have no idea when these devices will be ready.
There will also be a 30-day public consultation before the devices can be used, but we all know how well public consultations went for legalization.
And of course, what exactly will a saliva sample reveal? That I smoked a joint last night? Or even two weeks ago? THC stays in the body long after impairment has worn off. And cannabis only impairs when your tolerance is low.
It’s not alcohol. People are capable of micro-dosing cannabis and going about their day (including driving) without incident.
It’s been happening for, literally, decades.
And besides, saliva testing is pretty dumb because when you’re stoned out of your mind since you don’t produce much saliva anyway.
That’s what makes these new rules so frustrating. An impaired cannabis user is obvious to everyone. No special training needed. They drive real slow, they’ve got cotton mouth, and their eyes are bloodshot or glazed over.
And did you get that first part? They drive real slow. I’m more concerned about regular cannabis users who drive because they’re not impaired and instead are quite functional, like any sober person.
I guess authorities recognized the elusive nature of cannabis impairment, so they set an arbitrary level for THC in the blood within two hours of driving.
Meaning — without needing to actually prove impairment, cops can lay impaired driving charges based on blood tests alone.
We’ve been doing this for decades with blood alcohol levels, where the science is more concrete, but cannabis?
Well, let’s just say the government is opening itself up to legal challenges. Especially among medical patients.
Fortunately, these blood-THC levels are in the regulations, not the legislation itself. So it’s possible these can be changed without having to go through the traditional modes of Parliament. But it’s also possible provinces may impose stricter rules.
Governments across the nation are taking a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis and driving.
Which, in my mind, makes legalization worse than prohibition. It’s not like a lot of people in Canada were going to jail for it anyway. And the cops are still going to use resources to bust “illegal” growers.
And now we have to contend with new impaired driving laws, where the police have larger budgets and more tools.
Starting in December, police can require a roadside breath test for any driver.
Cops used to need reasonable suspicion like they do now with saliva testing. But now, all they need to do is pull you over for whatever reason. Or stop you at one of their roadside checkpoints.
Hell, following this logic, why not set up permanent checkpoints across the country? After all, think of the children!
Historically, the Supreme Court of Canada has found random roadside breath testing to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Before Bill C-46 received royal assent, cops needed a couple requirements before conducting a breath test: reasonable suspicion and a sense of urgency. Additionally, the results of the roadside test could not be used as proof of impairment or blood alcohol level.
Bill C-46 does away with all these pesky requirements that were designed to protect the few liberties we have left. With the exception of using roadside tests as proof in a court of law, Bill C-46 treats drivers as if they’re already guilty of something.
Object to it? Let’s say you get pulled over for no reason, or at a checkpoint, and you’re asked to blow into a breathalyzer despite no obvious signs of impairment. You decline. Then what?
The Senate debated this fiercely, with lawyers and civil liberties groups arguing that it violated the Charter’s protection against unreasonable searches.
The Senate actually voted to remove this entire provision but the Liberal Government restored it and when they sent it back to the Senate, the Upper Chamber said, “fuck it, we gonna for summer vacation. Pass the bill!”
Of course, what’s incredibly annoying about all this is that Canada’s impaired driving statistics were already falling.
There was simply no need to overhaul these laws and impose stricter rules.
But so it goes when your prime minister is a former drama teacher and snowboard instructor.