Police in Canadian cities test out saliva swab drug tests
Published Saturday, January 7, 2017 9:50PM EST
Police in several jurisdictions across Canada are testing out swabs that could one day be used as evidence of drug-impaired driving.
The experimental tests gather saliva from a driver’s tongue and cheek in order detect the presence of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines.
Police in jurisdictions including Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver are asking volunteers to give samples as part of a pilot project to see how the tests hold up in real life situations. Police say no one will be charged as a result.
Advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hopes the Trudeau government will change the Criminal Code before marijuana is legalized this spring to allow the saliva tests to be used as evidence of impaired driving.
MADD points out that although drugs are more commonly found in drivers involved in fatal crashes than alcohol, only 2.6 per cent of impaired charges laid in Canada in 2014 were for drugs. The group says research shows legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado has coincided with an increase in fatal crashes.
But other research, including a 2015 study of more than 10,000 drivers in California by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found marijuana smokers had only a minimally higher risk of being involved in a traffic accidents.
The Canadian Medical Association agrees with MADD that marijuana use is associated with increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
The doctor’s group told a government task force earlier this year that: “A clear and reliable process for identifying, testing and imposing consequences on individuals who use marijuana and drive absolutely needs to be in place nationally prior to legalization.”
But not everyone believes the new test is needed.
Marijuana activist Marc Emery said the new drug test, if approved, will just be a way for police to persecute cannabis users.
"If you smoke marijuana every day, you are a better driver than if you don't smoke marijuana,” said Emery. “I am quite convinced of it."
With a report from CTV’s Peter Akman