A federal pilot project to test drug impairment in drivers in advance of expected marijuana legalisation went off as a big success in the Battlefords.
Battlefords RCMP were selected to be one of eight detachments across the country involved in the project for roadside drug screening tests. The Battlefords were the only detachment in central Canada where the pilot project was held. Each detachment was asked to collect 200 samples over a two-month period from January to early March. The tests were completely voluntary and the results could not be used to charge anyone who tested positive.
Cpl. Jason Olney was involved with the pilot project in the Battlefords and said every community they tested were very cooperative.
“Actually everyone in the community was great,” Olney said. “We not only tested in North Battleford but the surrounding area. What really stands out to me is when I went out to Murray Lake during the fish derby. Everyone was very accepting of the drug wipes and they were very curious. I got a lot of tests done there.”
Cochin, Moosomin, Saulteaux, Sweet Grass First Nation, Mosquito and Red Pheasant First Nation were some of the other communities tested, according to Olney.
The devices, known as “oral fluid screening devices” test saliva for the presence of certain drugs. Olney said of the 200 samples taken, there were a few positive tests. On a positive note he added, not a single driver tested positive. During the testing period, passengers were the only positive tests out of the ones performed on vehicle occupants.
Onley stressed just because someone tests positive on this device in the future, it doesn’t mean they will be charged and lose their license.
“The wipes we are testing only confirm there are drugs in their system,” Onley said. “If they tested positive, it would be up to the drug recognition expert to formulate an opinion as to whether the person is impaired and by what category of drug.”
According to Onley, over the counter medicine like cough syrup in someone’s system can test positive because some brands contain opioids. The devices test for a number of other drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine. The results will help inform how police services counter drug-impaired driving in Canada.
Onley didn’t know if the drug screening tests would become a permanent fixture among Canadian police detachments, but thinks it would be a good thing if it did happen.
“From what I’ve been told there are other countries already using these. So, these instruments have been proven in the lab. It is very accurate.”
Onley said if Ottawa creates legislation and approves the use of the tests, he believes every officer who goes through the training will be equipped with them.
Other participating police services included the Toronto Police Service, Vancouver Police Department, Ontario Provincial Police, Service de police de la ville de Gatineau, Halifax Regional Police Service and RCMP Yellowknife Detachment.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said the pilot project will help determine how police services can counter drug-impaired driving.
"Testing these new drug screening devices is an important step in our ongoing effort to enhance the enforcement of drug-impaired driving laws, reduce drug-impaired driving and improve the safety and security of all Canadians," he said.
On Twitter @realgreghiggins.
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