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This article was published 30/11/2018 (541 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Police Service spiced up its traditional holiday campaign against impaired driving Friday, showing off a newly acquired roadside drug-screening device meant to determine whether a driver has recently used either cannabis or cocaine.
The Draeger DrugTest 5000 will be deployed at police Checkstops, said WPS Const. Stephane Fontaine, the force’s impaired-driving countermeasures co-ordinator. However, police won’t be using it to test drivers without first having reasonable suspicion they’ve been using drugs.
"If you suspect that there’s been recent consumption of those two drugs, but you’re unable to form the grounds that you need to arrest for impaired driving, this is a tool to help you either eliminate going to an arrest or, ultimately, supporting your suspicion," Fontaine said.
"Keep in mind, if the person is showing gross signs of impairment, this device will not be used."
In those cases, police would already have a reason to suspect drug-impaired driving, and would move onto the next step towards laying an impaired-driving charge: formally confirming that suspicion by having the driver evaluated by one of 32 Winnipeg police officers trained to recognize drug impairment, demanding a sample of the driver’s blood for testing, or both. (A new federal law makes it a criminal offence for drivers to have more than certain amounts of drugs in their blood.)
The WPS has seven of the $5,000 machines, which are the only roadside drug-screening device approved by the federal government. The force is just beginning to train officers on how to use them, Fontaine said, and each district will receive its own device.
A Free Press reporter volunteered for a screening by the DrugTest 5000.
The reporter spent roughly 30 seconds swabbing the inside of his mouth with a sample collector attached to a plastic cassette, which was then inserted into the bulky analyzer device by an officer. About five minutes later, the device printed out a negative result, indicating the saliva didn’t contain any chemical traces of cannabis or cocaine above the device’s measurement threshold.
Fontaine said the new device is meant to detect cannabis use within the past six hours, but couldn’t say exactly how long a driver should wait after using cannabis before getting behind the wheel.
"It’s not a safe thing for me to provide you with some magical number, because of all of the different variables that come into play when you’re dealing with cannabis," Fontaine said.
"Everyone wants to compare it to alcohol... We can’t do that same correlation with cannabis, and that’s simple reality."
The police recommendation to cannabis users is simply: "Not to consume and drive under the influence," he said.
Fontaine wouldn’t comment on whether Winnipeg police have noticed an increase in cannabis-impaired driving since Oct. 17, when the drug was legalized in Canada for non-medical use. Drug-impaired driving arrests are only confirmed months later, he said, "when we have the toxicology report back."
"It’s very premature to comment on any stats, just because it’s such a short time period since official legalization," he said. "Ultimately, there’s a lot of time that needs to pass before we have all of the answers."
Winnipeg police will start operating the holiday season Checkstop program this weekend. Police are encouraging inebriated revellers to avoid driving by using cabs, public transit or designated drivers.
"Our message is simple: if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, don’t drive," Fontaine told reporters.
Updated on Friday, November 30, 2018 at 3:28 PM CST: Removes extra word in headline.
December 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM: Final