According to Canadian law enforcement agencies, there has been no noticeable increase in arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana since the nation legalized the plant for everyone 18 and older.
A survey by the Canadian Press of the country’s police forces has found that most have seen no rise in DUI cannabis arrests, reports High Times.
“[M]ost police departments are still really focusing on the drugs that we know that are killing people, the opiates and methamphetamines that are causing major concerns across the country,” says Chief Constable Mike Serr, who is co-chairperson of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s drug advisory committee.
Many departments which took part in the survey said they had actually recommended less charges for driving while under the influence of marijuana, although Alberta police did report 58 such charges since federal legalization, in comparison to 32 charges levied during the same six months last year.
Many agencies are reporting the prioritization of driver education around proper storage of cannabis while driving, emphasizing that it should be kept safely in the trunk as one would with alcohol containers.
“The news comes at the same time as the Canadian government’s announcement that it may approve a roadside THC saliva testing system for use by roadside officers”, says High Times. “The Abbot SoToxa costs $6,000 Canadian dollars per device, but yields results in five minutes as opposed to other, considerably more delayed methods of testing for the presence of THC in a driver’s body. As is usually the case with these things, it does not test impairment in a driver. It wouldn’t be admissible as the basis for criminal charges — only for grounds to to arrest an individual.”
A $62.5 million five year plan was announced in July of last year to train officers in new cannabis legislation, including how to handle those driving after consumption.
As noted by High Times, across the U.S. and Canada, governments have been mulling over options for policing driving while stoned. In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker has introduced a bill based on a report from a special committee that recommended police be able to demand biological testing from drivers they suspect to be under the influence after a 12-step coordination and reflex test — and that drivers should have their license revoked for six months if they refuse the evaluation.
That plan has its own challenges to face, however. “Marijuana can stay in your system for over three days,” Boston College professor and drug expert Richard Gowan told The Huntington News. “So you could easily say as an excuse, ‘Well, I smoked this joint three days ago, I’m not under the influence anymore.’ Legally, this is going to be incredibly difficult.”