Jody Wilson-Raybould approves roadside saliva test for cannabis that doesn't measure impairment

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The federal government says that "combatting impaired driving is a top priority".

But today, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould approved a roadside cannabis test that doesn't measure impairment, yet will still lead to criminal charges against motorists.

The Dräger DrugTest 5000 reader works with the Dräger DrugTest 5000 STK-CA (collection kit) to detect the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cocaine, and methamphetamine.

It does this with a saliva test, which will be administered by law-enforcement officers.

“Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada," Wilson-Raybould said in a news release. "Keeping our roads safe means ensuring law enforcement has the tools they need to deter and detect drug-impaired driving."

Earlier this month, Vancouver lawyer Sarah Leamon questioned the effectiveness of the Dräger DrugTest 5000 in assessing impairment.

“THC is stored in fat cells long after the effects have worn off," she told the Straight. "It is not metabolized through the body in a consistent rate and there really is no formula for us to determine how it moves through every human body."

So even if someone has THC in their system and isn't high, they could still be prosecuted under Bill C-46, which received royal assent in June.

That's because the law imposes penalties for those who surpass thresholds for THC in their body, regardless of its effects.

According to Leamon, that's a recipe for constitutional challenges.

Under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the right "not to be deprived" of their liberty "except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice".

Section 8 of the charter says that "everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure".

“Instead of passing all of these laws that are potentially flawed and contrary to the charter, what they [the government] should be doing is investing in a strong public-education campaign," Leamon told the Straight earlier this month. "People need to understand how to properly use cannabis in a responsible and safe manner in relation to their motor vehicles."

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