Police wait on marijuana impaired device

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The Delta and Vancouver police departments will not be using a federally approved drug testing device when cannabis is legalized in Canada in a few weeks.

Despite the Draeger DrugTest 5000 receiving government approval, the DPD plans to introduce it slowly in 2019.

“We will continue to enforce impaired driving through our programs and what we are currently doing, so I want to be clear about that,” DPD Chief Neil Dubord said this week. “We are certainly looking at it in 2019, but we think in 2018 and with just three weeks away before cannabis is legal, being able to get all our members ready with it and have it ready to go on the street, just is not going to work out well and would be a rushed deployment.”

Dubord said the department wants to ensure officers have full training and a full understanding of the device before they begin using it.

With recreational cannabis becoming available Oct. 17, officers will continue using standard field sobriety tests in order to determine whether a driver is impaired by a drug. The tests consist of a handful of divided attention tasks that are said to test a driver’s balance, concentration, judgement and overall ability to operate a motor vehicle. They have been in use for over a decade and have been accepted as a valid tool for evaluating impairment by the courts.

Criminal defence lawyer Sarah Leamon, who has specialized knowledge of impaired driving law and police procedures, said she can see why the two departments are taking a pass on the system – at least for now.

“I’m not surprised both from an operational standpoint and a legal standpoint because this device is so problematic and it has technology that has not been tested, especially before the courts,” she said. “It’s also a very expensive piece of technology, so it’s a significant investment, particularly for municipal forces.”

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