Roadside testing device approved as cannabis prep continues

Drager DrugTest 5000 picture courtesy of Drager

OTTAWA, Ont. – An oral fluids test has been approved by the federal government for roadside use by law enforcement officials in the detection of marijuana.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s approval of the Drager DrugTest 5000 comes as regulators and law enforcement agencies across the country prepare for cannabis legalization on Oct. 17.

Drivers found with more than two nanograms (ng) of the drug in their system will be considered impaired according to the new laws, however there has been much speculation surrounding the methods police will be using for roadside tests because not every test is able to measure amounts in such small quantities.

Drager’s website says the approved device is able to measure quantities as low as the required 2.5ng but police forces have said they will also rely on other methods of determining whether a driver is fit to be behind the wheel, like watching reaction times and checking for things like slurred speech and red or glassy eyes.

The DrugTest 5000 is designed to detect cannabis in saliva using a sanitary plastic applicator that is swabbed inside the mouth and then inserted into a portable machine, issuing a printout of results at the side of the road. The tester is larger than others on the market and must be operated in temperatures of four degrees Celsius or higher – which may prove difficult during colder times of the year.

MP Bill Blair has previously said the roadside test results are just meant to be a first step in finding those driving high. A positive test from the Drager unit will give officers probable cause to order blood tests. While the roadside test may not be able to provide evidence in court, the subsequent tests can. Initial roadside testing also allows officers to get potentially impaired drivers off the road immediately.

For commercial drivers operating in jurisdictions like Ontario or the United States a zero-tolerance policy is in place meaning a license suspension for operating their truck with any amount of the drug in their system. Fleets are also allowed to continue to maintain zero-tolerance policies after the legalization date.

The approval of the device means law enforcement agencies can use the device for tests, but it’s not mandatory. Government assistance set aside for training in light of the new regulations will also go to help police buy the testers should they want to, but some units say they are still deciding.

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