Kyla Lee in The Globe and Mail: Western premiers ask federal government for more help dealing with drug-impaired drivers

Western Canada’s premiers are calling on Ottawa to do more to help their provinces enforce drug-impaired driving laws after the legalization of marijuana this year.

A final communiqué issued on Wednesday at the western premiers meeting in Yellowknife also urged the federal government to expedite the approval of a saliva-screening device so police forces across the country can procure the equipment and train their officers accordingly.
“With respect to cannabis, we have just weeks until the federal government legalizes a substance that has never been legal before, and they don’t have any idea about saliva-screening tests that are going to be done, they haven’t approved devices yet,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, among the most vocal critics of the legalization timeline, told reporters. “Our police are supposed to be stopping stoned drivers on the road and they don’t know how they are going to test them.

Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in impaired-driving cases, said Canadian police officers are at least two years out from being able to use the saliva-screening devices on the road, noting that Public Safety Canada’s continuing approval and purchasing process will be followed by the RCMP’s own rigorous system of reviewing such equipment. Then each device will have to be calibrated to the impairment limits set by each province, she said, and thousands of officers will have to be trained to use the new instruments. By comparison, when police forces adopted a new type of breathalyzer, the rollout took about 18 months, she said.
Still, she said the existing regime for catching stoned drivers through field sobriety tests and drug-recognition experts appears to be working fine.
“There’s been no numbers that the government has been saying, ‘This many people every year have been killed by drug-impaired drivers and it’s a crisis,’ ” she said.
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