Marijuana mayhem: Drivers in Canada set up to get busted for stoned driving

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“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.” – Unknown

While the Canadian stoner class eagerly awaits the official launch of the nation’s recreational marijuana market, law enforcement is devising a semi-evil plot to bust motorists -- potentially innocent ones -- for stoned driving. It is a situation that is bound to spawn an uprising in controversy, lawsuits and heaping piles of unwarranted convictions.

Because no matter how this situation is colored, shaped or simply chalked up to “the best we can do,” experts say it is scientifically impossible to target, with any level of real accuracy, only those drivers under the influence of marijuana using the roadside testing methods set to be unleashed in the coming months.

It was just last September that Public Safety Canada committed to dumping an enormous $81 million into a training program designed to help police catch motorists that are high behind the wheel. The agency’s chosen system is a 12-step drug recognition expert (DRE) evaluation, which is said to detect “central nervous system depressants, inhalants, dissociative anesthetics, cannabis, central nervous system stimulants, hallucinogens and narcotic analgesics, ”according to CTV News. It is in the ballpark of the field sobriety test that has been used in the United States for years.

The problem with roadside drug tests, which, more appropriately speaking, should be called pop quizzes, is that they cannot distinguish between a driver who is high right now and those who may have consumed marijuana at some point within the past few weeks.

Sadly, because the techniques and technology behind these policing methods are marred with uncertainty, there are even cases in which non-cannabis users – people who have never smoked pot in their entire life -- can find themselves jammed up, at least temporarily, on suspicion of drugged driving. Nevertheless, this is how Canada’s police force plans to start nabbing high drivers once the nation starts selling legal weed.

The process will go as follows.

Since alcohol is still the drug of choice in the northern nation, cops have been trained to eliminate the possibility of drunk driving right out of the gate. This process, of course, is easy with the use of a Breathalyzer – an accurate test for determining exactly just how buttered-up a driver really is.

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If the breath test turns up clean, police will then initiate the 12-step process in hopes of verifying whether the motorist has been smoking marijuana. It is at that point the driver will need to pass an eye test, stand on one leg (without falling) and walk a straight line, turn around and walk some more. Sounds scientific, right?

As of December 2018, when the updated drugged driving laws take effect across the prohibition dead lands, Canadian police will also have the freedom to utilize saliva tests.

But while these tests were devised to quickly show an officer whether a driver has marijuana in their system, “cannabinoids are difficult to detect in oral fluids, as only a minute amount of the drug is excreted into the saliva,” writes Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a man who has established himself as one of the leading experts on the subject of stoned driving.

Yet a questionable saliva test is all the probable suspicion an officer needs to justify hauling a motorist back to the local police station for further review. And by review, we mean another series of ridiculous tests that will include every mad science method for determining what chemicals are in the driver’s blood stream aside from maybe an anal probe. We’re talking about Canada here. They are not monsters, after all.

Once the suspect is at the station, the protocol is to check their blood pressure and body temperature. The examiner will also inspect the suspect’s muscle tone, because apparently, if the driver’s meaty fibers are not tight enough, this is a solid indication that they could be under the influence of drugs.

More tests will follow this phase of insanity, gauging the suspect’s ability to do things like multitask, count and maybe even do the Hokey Pokey. All in, getting through the entire 12- step process could take about an hour.

If, at any point, an officer is convinced that the motorist is higher than a dead Pope, they can, and presumably will, proceed with collecting a vile of blood or a urine sample. Of course, the problem is these types of tests are not very accurate either.

In fact, a recent report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction shows that none of the aforementioned drug-testing methods can be trusted. The different kinds of tests (saliva vs. urine vs. blood) all have a tendency to contradict each other.

What this means is pretty self-explanatory: Canada's illusionary drug enforcement/ public safety campaign will inadvertently wreak havoc on the public once marijuana goes fully legal.

“The issue is whether these tests have ever been explicitly validated for identifying subjects under the influence of cannabis versus those that are not. Generally, they are not,” Armentano told Forbes.

“To date, Field Sobriety Tests have inly been validated for the identification of subjects under the influence of alcohol, not other drugs,” he continued. “Further, while some specific components of the DRE evaluation may have some correlation with recent cannabis use, many of these indicators may also be triggered by subjects who have not used cannabis at all.

Moreover, other components of the test, such as the rigid muscle tone or pupil size, have no validation for cannabis. Ideally, both of these examinations should be amended and updated to better utilize measures that are validated for discerning subjects who may be under the influence of cannabis versus those who are not.”

Canada is set to launch its recreational marijuana market in October 2018. As it stands, no effective device has been developed to accurately gauge cannabis impairment. Still, according to the guidelines of the Canadian government, offenders testing positive for 2 nanograms of THC can face a fine of up to $1,000.

Results showing 5 nanograms or more could lead to a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Additionally, each province has the right to implement their own stoned driving rules. Some have opted for a zero-tolerance policy. In these cases, any amount of cannabis in a driver’s system will lead to legal woes.

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