Finally, the federal Liberals have been given the green light for roadside saliva screening tests for marijuana. On Monday, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould approved the Drager DrugTest 5000 as the first saliva screening equipment to be used by law enforcement to test for THC, the main psychoactive agent in cannabis.
The equipment will now be made available to police forces across the country, but the government says it will still be up to police forces to decide what testing equipment they want to use.
Manufacturers have told the government that they could meet demand for roadside saliva testing equipment within four to six weeks.
Legislation that passed Parliament in June allows for the use of roadside saliva tests to detect the presence of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
The Liberals have pledged $161 million in funding for police training and drug-testing equipment over the next five years, as well as a public awareness campaign about the perils of driving while high.
Cannabis can be detected through blood, urine, hair, or saliva. When you smoke weed, the primary ingredient, THC, is metabolized and soaked into your body. Since the saliva test, unlike the others, focuses on THC content, it might suggest that marijuana has a comparatively short time span where it can be identified by using a saliva test.
Most saliva tests on the market today can detect marijuana in your system for about 24 hours after consumption. This test is especially effective if you have just smoked a joint. However, it can recognize pot for as long as 72 hours.
Drivers who have a blood drug concentration of more than two nanograms of THC (per millilitre of blood) but less than five nanograms could be found guilty of drugged driving under the proposed summary offence, which has a maximum fine of $1,000.
Drivers caught with more than five nanograms of THC in their blood would be guilty of impaired driving, while drivers with both alcohol and THC in their system would be considered impaired if they have more than 50 milligrams of alcohol (per 100 millilitres of blood) and greater than 2.5 nanograms of THC in their blood.
The government said the other two proposed offences would be similar to the offences for drunk driving. Drivers with more than five nanograms of THC in their blood would be punished with a mandatory fine of $1,000 for a first offence, 30 days imprisonment for a second offence and 120 days for a third offence.
A Public Safety Canada survey conducted by EKOS Research Associates last fall found that although most people understand it’s illegal to drive when impaired by drugs, 43 per cent of Canadians don’t know how long to wait to drive after consuming pot, and one in six felt three hours was long enough — a significant underestimate.