PEI

Charlottetown police will be on lookout for stoned drivers

Drivers under the influence of cannabis will be under the same scrutiny as drivers under the influence of alcohol, Charlottetown police say.

Police to use device that takes saliva sample to detect drug impairment

'I'm hoping people will still use common sense and not drive high,' says Const. Ron Kennedy. (Shutterstock)

Drivers under the influence of cannabis will be under the same scrutiny as drivers under the influence of alcohol, Charlottetown police say.

Recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, and police in Charlottetown have been training to detect when drivers are impaired.

"We're looking for any sort of indicators that would alert us to a person being impaired, be it by cannabis or be it by alcohol because you have to remember that person is still impaired," said Const. Ron Kennedy.

"It's still the same as if you were impaired by alcohol but we would be just looking for impairment by drug."

Roadside saliva test

Under Bill C-46, which passed in June and comes into effect this December, police will have the right to conduct roadside saliva tests of drivers they suspect to be under the influence of drugs, in the same way they have long-used breathalyzers to check for alcohol impairment.

You can't drive down the road with an open can of beer ... Similarly, you can't be driving down the road and smoking [marijuana]— Charlottetown police Const. Ron Kennedy

Kennedy, who is in Ottawa learning how to use the drug screening device, said it is a non-invasive procedure that can detect marijuana or cocaine in the body.

"It's just a matter of basically putting it in under your tongue and taking some oral fluid."

The results are available in a matter of minutes, he said.

A driver found to have at least two nanograms, and less than five nanograms, of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000. (THC is the primary psychoactive constituent found in cannabis.)

No smoking and driving

A driver caught with a blood-THC level of more than five nanograms, or found to have been drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis at the same time, faces a fine and the prospect of jail time. In more serious cases, a drug-impaired driver can face up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.

The rules around transporting cannabis are similar to alcohol, as well, Kennedy said.

"You can't drive down the road with an open can of beer and be drinking while you are driving. You can't have any open alcohol in your car. Similarly, you can't be driving down the road and smoking [marijuana]."

As with other jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, Kennedy anticipates a spike in use before the "novelty" wears off.

"I'm hoping people will still use common sense and not drive high," he said.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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