VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Now that BC has a plan for regulating the distribution and sale of pot, questions remain about how to keep users from getting behind the wheel high.
It’s something the province’s public safety minister is urging Ottawa to figure out before the use of recreational marijuana is legalized sometime this year.
The federal Bill C-46, which sets driving limits for roadside testing devices, is under review by a parliamentary senate committee, so Mike Farnworth says he’s still waiting for direction about enforcement.
“Around the kind of technology that they intend to use and it’s something that we believe needs to be communicated to the provinces, like, ASAP.”
NEWS 1130 Legal Analyst Michael Shapray says how police are going to monitor this, is a real issue.
“We’ve had a long runway to the legalization of marijuana and obviously the issue of testing motorists, whether it be under the Criminal Code or under the provincial legislation, is a real issue. All of that is administered by police officers in the province and certainly the direction must come from the feds as to what is going to be available in terms of scientific testing or if they’re simply going to be relying on human testing with some expertise, like the current drug recognition experts.”
Right now, specially trained drug recognition officers conduct field sobriety tests based largely on visual assessments but that could be changed by new testing devices.
Farnworth says his federal counterparts have told him they are confident in some technology, but have yet to communicate what that is.
“I think that in British Columbia, we’ve had a relatively high usage rate with respect to marijuana. I would not expect that the legalization would have a dramatic impact on the number of people using marijuana, it may or may not, that’s my opinion,” adds Shapray. “I think the issue of drivers who consume marijuana behind the wheel has always been an issue and the police have always had an obligation to determine whether or not people have consumed drugs — whether it be marijuana or any other drugs that can impair their ability to drive.”
Right now, most police conduct field sobriety tests based on what they see and not on the collection of bodily fluids.
Local lawyer Paul Doroshenko, who specializes in these types of cases, insists there’s no need to panic.
“Because, how long have we had cannabis being used in BC? For a long time. There’s lots of people who use marijuana. Are they causing carnage on the road? I don’t see it.”
Vancouver Police say they’re looking forward to what the government decides. “I think it’s too soon comment on something that has not yet become an issue that we’ve had to deal with. There is still work being done to determine what additional tools will be made available to our officers,” says Constable Jason Doucette.
On Thursday, the provincial government outlined how it would regulate recreational marijuana, but it’s still not clear how testing and enforcement of impaired driving will be altered.
Once legal, adults aged 19 years and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place, which aligns with the federal government’s proposed possession limit for adults.
BC will generally allow adults to use non-medical cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted.
However, smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children, including community beaches, parks, and playgrounds.