No toking and driving until reliable roadside cannabis test available, Manitobans tell pollsters

No toking and driving until reliable roadside cannabis test available, Manitobans tell pollsters

A majority of Manitobans support a zero-tolerance approach to policing drivers with even small traces of cannabis in their system, at least until scientists develop a reliable roadside test for cannabis impairment, a new poll suggests.

The Probe Research/Winnipeg Free Press poll asked Manitobans whether “it should be illegal to drive with even very small amounts of pot in your system.”

Out of the 1,000 people polled, 68 per cent agreed — 51 per cent strongly and 17 per cent moderately agreed. Thirty-two per cent disagreed, 15 per cent of those strongly.

Support for a zero-tolerance policy on driving with cannabis traces in the system consistently crossed all demographic categories.

“Even younger adults — those aged 18 to 34 years, who are typically more comfortable with cannabis use — strongly favour a zero-tolerance approach to impaired driving,” the report said.

Only political leanings marked a significant difference, with 74 per cent of Progressive Conservative supporters agreeing, compared to 57 per cent of Manitoba NDP supporters.

The survey was conducted March 12-29 using a combination of land lines and wireless numbers, as well as a secure online questionnaire.

The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points with 95 per cent certainty.

Criminal defence lawyers have said that existing tests — which involve taking saliva and blood samples and measuring levels of THC, one of the active chemicals in marijuana — cannot accurately determine a person’s level of impairment.

Unlike alcohol, there is no clearly defined limit beyond which a person can be considered impaired. One person’s THC levels might exceed a set limit without being impaired, while another person might pass a roadside test while being impaired.

Bill C-45, the federal government’s proposed legislation legalizing the sale of cannabis in Canada, passed a key stage in the Senate, which voted on March 22 to send the bill to five separate committees for further study.

A separate bill, Bill C-46, amends the Criminal Code to create new rules related to drug-impaired driving.

The legislation will allow police to demand a driver provide an “oral fluid sample” — saliva — if they suspect a driver is drug impaired. A positive reading could lead to further testing, including a blood test, to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed.

Three new drug-related offences will also be created for drivers who have consumed drugs within two hours of driving.

A driver who is found to have two nanograms but less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000.

Published at Tue, 17 Apr 2018 13:44:56 -0400