Toking and driving is just as illegal as drinking and driving. It has been for decades. Yet criminal charges are so rare (some provinces have not recorded a single conviction for drugimpaired driving) that the bulk of baked motorists manage to cruise around un-
noticed. Until they kill someone, of course.
That legacy is expected to change on July 2, when—after 20 years of debate and delay— the Criminal Code will finally grant police the power to demand blood, urine or saliva samples from drivers who smell like Cheech and Chong. “Until now, we really couldn’t prosecute anybody,” says Wayne Jeffery, a retired RCMP toxicologist who helped draft the new rules. “Even though it was illegal to drive under the influence of a drug, you could only prove it if the suspect actually admitted to taking drugs, or if they agreed to give you a fluid sample. And very few would say: ‘Yes, I’m taking drugs,’ and virtually none would volunteer to hand over their bodily fluids.” Six weeks from now, they will have no choice. Just as a suspected drunk must blow into a Breathalyzer, a suspected stoner will have to pee into a cup—or pay a $1,000 fine.
Traffic cops, not to mention MADD Canada, are counting down the hours until July 2. But it will be a few more years before the courts actually see a significant spike in drugdriving cases. The new rules require a new fleet of specialists (known as drug recognition experts, or DREs), and as the RCMP concedes in a recent report, the current roster is “grossly insufficient to meet demand.” At last count, there are 240 DREs in the entire country—far fewer than the anticipated goal of 3,000. “To train the numbers we require, it will take a minimum of five years,” says Cpl. Evan Graham, the Mountie in charge of the program. “But this is just the beginning. At least we have the legislation now.” M
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