OPP still unsure about using roadside drug testing equipment

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Cannabis use will soon become legal across Canada and all indications seem to point to a lack of preparedness of this historical decision.

The Ontario Provincial Police for their part has admitted that it is still deciding on whether its officers will use federally-approved roadside drug screening equipment to identify impaired drivers.

Currently the OPP uses standardized field sobriety tests, conducted by officers, to determine a driver’s level of impairment by alcohol or drugs. Roadside tests are administered based on the observations made by the officer present on site.

The OPP also has drug recognition experts who carry out more elaborate tests.

For now, the OPP will continue to use those tools to measure sobriety.

Meanwhile there are numerous questions floating about on how reliable readings will be during the cold weather.

According to the federal government, the equipment will be made available to forces across the country, but it will still be up to police to decide what they want to use.

Questions have been raised about the equipment’s reliability in cold weather and the manufacturer says its recommended operating range is between 4 C and 40 C.

As well, a study published in February in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, based on the use of the device in Norway, raised concerns about several false-positive and false-negative results.

Manufacturers are confident that the equipment won’t malfunction as long as the main equipment remains in the heated interiors of an officer’s patrol car.

Oral fluid drug screening involves cassette, reader which the government calls oral fluid drug screening, was designed to be simple and straightforward. The analyzer is about the size of a small kitchen appliance.

If an officer suspects a driver has drugs in his or her body, the officer would stop the driver and ask him or her to provide a saliva sample. The officer would then pass a cassette to the driver.

The cassette, which acts as an oral swab, is inserted into a person’s mouth and is moved back and forth, or wiped around inside, until the indicator turns blue. The colour means enough saliva has been collected for the test. The process can take 30 seconds to a minute.

The cassette is then passed back to the officer, with a sanitary cap to prevent risk of exposure. The cassette is a little plastic tube with absorbent material at one end.

This process could take about four and a half minutes for the analyzer to read the results of the biochemistry.

The test works in the opposite way of a pregnancy test, with a line appearing if there is no drug present in the person, and no line appearing if THC or cocaine is present.

Based on the result, the officer will decide whether to request that the driver go into a station for a blood test.

The federal government has earmarked $81 million for the purchase of approved screening devices in advance of recreational marijuana use becoming legal on October 17.

Legislation that passed Parliament in June allows for the use of roadside saliva tests to detect the presence of drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Meanwhile it is almost certain that these drug use results will be challenged by drivers who will insist the equipment was faulty or the reading was inaccurate on account of weather. -CINEWS

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