Many cities in Canada are still not using the government-recommended Drager DrugTest 5000, a device used to test saliva for THC, the core psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The reason for the delay in adopting the device stems from a concern over reliability.
Ottawa is one of the cities where the police have not embraced the DrugTest 5000. Concerns over the accuracy of the device remain, although the RCMP says some of its detachments have purchased units. Others are waiting to see if the product functions as promised in the field.
RCMP Chief Supt. Dennis Daley earlier admitted current methods of using a standard field sobriety test (SFST) and Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) is less then ideal. However, it is all that is available until roadside technology for drug impairment can be as accurate as breathalyzers for alcohol impairment.
There are several problems with the DRE approach, which requires a potentially innocent motorist to be taken to a police station for a 12-step test. Studies show DREs can be an effective tool, but they cannot really confirm an impairment and can be contested as subjective.
Daley agrees this is problematical as police can sometimes get situations wrong.
“I do not believe that any police officer starts off their shift by saying ‘I want to make somebody’s life difficult today.’ We are human beings, we are faced with a particular situation, we rely on our training and our experience in order to hopefully do the right thing.”
Concerns about the accuracy of the DrugTest 5000 were addressed before the Cannabis Act was enacted on Oct. 17. The RCMP announced police forces across Canada were unprepared for the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. Several forces in the country said they would not be using the DrugTest 5000 device.
In response, Drager Canada, the manufacturer of the device, defended its accuracy and functionality. Rob Clark, managing director of Drager Canada, says the technology has been subject to misinformation and stressed the need for police departments to adapt to the device.