Are police experts when it comes to determining whether you’re too high to drive?
If they are, should this “expert” opinion be accepted as evidence in a court of law?
In the case of Carson Bingley, a committee of scientists are reviewing literature from around the world to determine whether there is a consensus on appropriate blood-levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Methodology is a factor here, since “impaired driving” is an elusive term.
People taking antidepressants have to be careful. Sometimes the sedation is similar to drunk driving. But as most people understand, tolerance goes a long way.
Some drivers are on valium, alcohol, antihistamines, decongestants, caffeine, sleeping pills, or hydrocodone.
Cannabis, like these other drugs, can augment or impair one’s driving.
Take the worst example: alcohol.
A micro-dose of beer acts as social lubrication, especially where anxiety is present.
The same could be said for nervous, anxious drivers. Being uncomfortable behind the wheel is unsafe and dangerous. Small quantities of alcohol could act as a supplement.
One beer won’t hurt, it likely won’t do anything, except make nervous drivers more relaxed. A lot of people will drink one beer and then drive elsewhere. They aren’t impaired.
Yet, if they run into a police roadblock and they fail a breathalyzer, they’ve got a problem.
The police officer can determine them impaired, even without a breathalyzer. This is the issue facing the Supreme Court of Canada, except now with cannabis, which is far safer than alcohol both on and off the road.
Should the courts accept police opinion as expert evidence?
Police officers, who don’t operate by profit and loss, but by bureaucratic hegemony, are supposed to be trained in spotting drug impairment, including cannabis impairment.
Assuming that cannabis can even impair you at all, police testimony suffers from decades of a prohibitionist culture.
As Justice Phelan wrote in the Allard verdict, RCMP Corporal Shane Holmquist, member of the RCMP’s Coordinated Marijuana Enforcement Team, “was the most egregious example of the so-called expert,” that, “he was shown, in cross-examination, to be so philosophically against marihuana in any form or use that his report lacked balance and objectivity.”
“His conclusions are result-oriented and exhibit a biased analysis.”
Professor Susan Boyd, author of Killer Weed, provided an expert rebuttal to the opinions given by Holmquist and Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.
“Her conclusion is the same as this Court’s,” the Allard decision reads.
Drug war indoctrination is being chipped away, but for police and people who warn of “demons” following legalization, the war mentality is still there.
Should police testimony on cannabis impairment be permitted as evidence in court, as if it were made by a qualified expert?
The Allard verdict would indicate that this is a bad idea, so would any quick scan of the headlines.
But what about real concerns of impairment? Whether it be cannabis, or any other, far more dangerous, substance?
Again, tolerance goes a long way, but the answer ultimately rests with our species’ extended phenotype — private property.
A free-and-fair market in cannabis sales and regulation also means a free-and-fair market in roads, courts, police, and legal services.
There is no sound argument for centralized bureaucracy.