Now-Leader file photo

Roadside device to weed out THC can’t detect impairment, lawyer says

‘This fact alone is likely to have serious implications for Canadians’ Charter Rights,’ lawyer Sarah Leamon warns

A criminal defence lawyer says “chances are high” that a roadside screening device that the federal government is set to approve to weed out stoned drivers will be vulnerable to a court challenge.

It’s called Abbott SoToxa, and can detect THC among other drugs.

“The government has abstained from officially approving the device until the 30-day consultation period following its announcing has expired,” noted lawyer Sarah Leamon, counting down from the April 20 announcement. “But now that it’s done, chances are high that the SoToxa will be approved some time this week.”

But the catch is, Leamon says, “it cannot measure drug impairment. This fact alone is likely to have serious implications for Canadians’ Charter Rights.”

homelessphoto

Sarah Leamon, criminal defence lawyer. (Submitted photo)

“The problem with all this technology, at the end of the day, is that it just cannot detect impairment,” she told the Now-Leader. “So it simply detects presence of a drug in the oral fluid, it does not even detect the drug in the blood stream and it says nothing about impairment.”

READ ALSO FOCUS: Canada’s revamped impaired driving law brews ‘potential for injustice’

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Gee, academics discover smoking pot leads to bad school grades

Asked why the federal government would bother with it, then, Leamon replied that the approach the government has always taken to the issue of Cannabis and driving, following its legalization, “has been to mirror it with the alcohol-impaired driving.

“With alcohol-impaired driving we have those per-se limits where you could be charged with impaired driving, you could also be charged with driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 80 milligrams per cent,” she noted. “They’re trying to mirror that exact same thing for THC but the problem is that alcohol and THC are just completely different animals.

“I think they’re just not approaching it using an informed common-sense approach, for lack of a better term.”

Will the Surrey RCMP be using this device? Sergeant Janelle Shoihet, spokeswoman for the RCMP Lower Mainland District, told the Now-Leader that “any decisions about devices being used would be co-ordinated by our national office and not unique to the BC RCMP.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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