News / Calgary

Calgary police satisfied with Alberta’s new drug-impaired driving legislation

There is currently zero tolerance for any alcohol in the system of a new driver in Alberta, and that ban will be extended to marijuana

Acting Sgt. Andrew Fairman with the Calgary Police Service’s Alcohol and Drug Recognition Unit said oral fluid testing would be a useful tool for frontline officers to catch cannabis-impaired drivers.

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Acting Sgt. Andrew Fairman with the Calgary Police Service’s Alcohol and Drug Recognition Unit said oral fluid testing would be a useful tool for frontline officers to catch cannabis-impaired drivers.

There is currently zero tolerance for any alcohol in the system of a new driver in Alberta, and that ban will be extended to marijuana.

Alberta began putting the legislative pieces in place for legalized marijuana on Tuesday, starting with changes to align its rules with pending Criminal Code amendments.

Normally, an Alberta driver caught with a blood alcohol level over .08 has also had their driver’s licence suspended until the case was resolved in court, but a recent Alberta Court of Appeal ruling said that penalty was unfair and unconstitutional.

Under the bill, it will now be a fixed-term suspension of 90 days, but it could be extended to a year if the driver doesn’t agree to participate in an ignition interlock program, at a cost of $1,400.

“Impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death and injury in Canada,’’ Transportation Minister Brian Mason said after introducing Bill 29 in the legislature. “If this bill passes, it will support our government’s goal of zero impairment (and) related collisions and fatalities on Alberta roads.’’

Recreational cannabis is anticipated to be legal across Canada as of July 1, 2018 and the federal government is revising and toughening criminal charges for impaired driving to include cannabis and mixing cannabis with alcohol while behind the wheel.

The new Criminal Code rules will see a fine for a driver with less than five nanograms of THC, the cannabis compound that gives the user a “high’’ in their bloodstream.

Stiffer fines and eventually mandatory jail time could be imposed for those caught with five nanograms or more.

Ottawa is bringing in a roadside saliva tests to check for drug impairment, and the rules are expected to be in place when marijuana is legalized.

Acting Sgt. Andrew Fairman with the Calgary Police Service’s Alcohol and Drug Recognition Unit said oral fluid testing would be a useful tool for frontline officers.

“The announcement that there’s going to be oral fluid possibilities is certainly going to assist us to detect the drug impaired driver at roadside, although CPS has been training frontline officers in the standardized field sobriety test to detect drug impaired drivers for several years now,” Fairman told reporters on Tuesday.

He said so far, he’s satisfied with the legislation that’s been brought forward.

“Anything that we can do to improve our ability to detect and prosecute drug impaired drivers is going to certainly assist – from what I’ve seen of the legislation, we’ll have to wait and see what comes out with the federal government – but I don’t see how we could go any further at this point,” Fairman said.

“If we have a lot of people that get out there and think they can operate a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis, then certainly it’s going to make my job a lot harder.”

The federal government has said it will give $81 million to the provinces and territories over the next five years to update police on checking and testing for drug-impaired driving.

The changes are just one part of the new legal marijuana regime – on Thursday the province is rolling out legislation to back up its plan on how it will sell cannabis while balancing public safety.

The federal government will handle overall health rules but the provinces will decide how to distribute and sell cannabis.

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