Drug induced drivers put to the test

The Alberta Administrative Licence suspension program has been expanded to allow police to give mandatory drug tests to drivers suspected to be under the influence of any drug.

Effective Thursday Oct. 15, any motorist suspected of driving under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal, will be subjected to a drug test.  If the person refuses to comply, they could have their driver’s license suspended for three months.

In 2008, twenty-two per cent of drivers involved in fatal collisions in Alberta, were impaired.  Drugs were involved in one per cent of those crashes; however, statistics show that not one of those accidents are related to drivers under the influence of marijuana.

If the driver decides to comply with the test, the motorists are taken to the local police station, where a specially trained officer will put them through a twelve-step evaluation.  The procedure involves checking for blood pressure, eye and pupil dilation and a breath test to rule out alcohol usage.  A urine sample is taken to complete the examination.

Alberta Transportation spokeswoman, Tammy Forbes, is quoted as saying that Alberta is the first province to implement automatic suspensions for drug impaired drivers.  The new law aligns with the Federal governments Bill C-2.

The past rules made it difficult for police to enforce, since they could ask the motorist to volunteer for drug testing, but the individual had the right to decline and drive away.  The police had to provide ample evidence based on circumstantial opinion in order to convince the judge or justice of the peace to issue a search warrant in order to test the suspected impaired driver.

Another potential issue arises when the urine test is applied.  How can the officer prove that the person in question took the drugs on day.  It takes between two and ninety days for signs of THC found in marijuana to leave the body and in some cases even longer, depending on the frequency of use.

If the person giving the urine sample uses ibuprofen, Tylenol or other legal drugs that cause the test to read positive for substance abuse.  So, if someone has chronic back pain and is put through the twelve-step evaluation, they could test positive for THC, despite never using it.

The officer still can’t prove that the said individual took one of the hundreds of legal and illegal drugs out there.  Since THC and other drugs give readings up to three months after usage, there is no way to verify that the accused got stoned and was stoned when they were pulled over by Police.

That’s a troublesome gray area in this new law.  One that any decent lawyer will have thrown out of the court, since it’s all circumstantial evidence, resulting in tax payer’s dollars being wasted.

To date, no accidents have been reported as marijuana being a cause for impairment.

Forbes is quoted as saying that drivers impaired by drugs are just as dangerous as drunk drivers despite twenty-one per cent of fatalities last year coming from drunk drivers and barely one per cent for drug usage.

That doesn’t include marijuana and is mostly a result of senior citizens impaired by prescription drugs.


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