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Roadside drug test can't tell how much cannabis drivers have had, lawyer says

Last Updated May 21, 2019 at 8:12 am PDT

(Source: iStock)

Leamon feels using the Abbott SoToxa will lead to court challenges

Someone with even a small amount of THC in their system could end up in trouble

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –¬†With a second roadside drug testing tool potentially set for approval this week, a lawyer is voicing her concerns about the fundamental differences between testing for cannabis and alcohol.

Vancouver criminal defense lawyer Sarah Leamon says the issue with the device, called the Abbott SoToxa, is that it can detect the presence of THC in someone’s saliva, but not the quantity that was consumed. Breathalyzers can give police officers a fair idea of how much alcohol the subject imbibed.

Leamon feels using the Abbott SoToxa will lead to court challenges.

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“I think that these devices will be challenged at multiple levels of court and there’s a number of different arguments that can be made in relation to them,” she says. “I think that a number of them could be successful.”

She says someone with even a small amount of THC in their system could end up in trouble.

“People who are operating a motor vehicle who aren’t impaired or effected by cannabis in any manner whatsoever, but who perhaps have some cannabis in their oral fluid, those individuals will be targeted.”

Ultimately, Leaman says, technology may not be the answer. She’s suggesting field sobriety tests by cops may be the best option available.

“Drugs just aren’t the same as alcohol,” she says. “We don’t have a quantifiable number that we can say assuredly every single person is impaired if this amount of THC is in their system.”

In an email, Abbott SoToxa says with its product, “law enforcement agencies now have a tool at the roadside to identify people who drive under the influence of cannabis, keeping the roadways safe.”

“In Canada, the analyzer is intended to measure the active presence of cannabis, which means that only cannabis that has been used within the last few hours will be detected,” the company adds. “An assessment of impairment is made by a law enforcement officer and could be based on several factors, including initial reasons for traffic stop and failure of a field sobriety test.”