Public Safety Canada prepares for increase in drug testing

Two days before the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation handed in its final report to the Trudeau government, Public Safety Canada announced they are looking into new ways to handle a potential increase in police and other investigators seeking to test for cannabis use.

The federal agency announced they are looking for outside help to determine if the country is equipped to deal with a rise in lab test requests after legalization kicks in. Although various tech companies are currently working on developing breathalyzers to sniff out cannabis use, the expected increase will come from “samples originating from a human body.”

The contractor hired by the agency will be expected to work with dozens of different labs across the country as well in the U.S. The higher demand for testing is expected to mainly be for impaired driving investigations but also from private employers and ensurers wanting to check if workers or policy holders are in compliance with the terms of their contracts.

“In the case of testing for the presence of cannabinoids and other drugs in the drivers’ system, it should be expected that the number of samples requiring lab analysis will increase dramatically once cannabis is legalized, simply because the police will be reacting to the new regime with a similar approach as they do for driving under the influence of alcohol,” the report states. “Roadside checks and random screening of drivers for drugs will likely occur more often, thus increasing the number of samples that will need to be tested for drugs.”

The 38-page document, entitled “Capacity of Forensic Laboratories in Canada to Test for Drugs,” notes the rates for drivers charged with being under the influence of cannabis doubled in Colorado after the state legalized it – from 5.7 per cent in 2012 to 12.3 per cent in 2014 – and rose from from 19 per cent to 33 per cent in Washington.

However, the report also notes there hasn’t been an increase in traffic fatalities in either state despite more drivers having legal and easy access to cannabis.