9 people tested positive for a drug in Toronto police roadside drug testing pilot project

Toronto police have released the first findings from the roadside drug test pilot project. The project, run from December to March, found 9 out of 205 people who volunteered for the tests had various drugs in their system.

Police say 9 people failed roadside drug tests in saliva sample pilot project

Police tested 205 volunteer drivers and passengers between December and mid-February. Of those, nine people tested positive for a drug. (ambrozinio/Shutterstock)

Nine people who volunteered to have their mouth swabbed in a roadside drug test pilot project tested positive for a drug, Toronto police said.

According to mid-point findings from the pilot project, by Feb. 16, 187 drivers and 18 passengers had agreed to the mouth swab. Of those tested, nine tested positive, police said.

From Dec. 19 to March 6, Toronto police officers asked drivers — who did not appear impaired — to volunteer for testing as part of a pilot project through Public Safety Canada. 

Traffic Services Const. Clint Stibbe said the testing detected the presence of these drugs:

  • Cannabis in three instances;
  • Cocaine in four instances;
  • Methamphetamines in two instances;
  • Amphetamines in two instances;
  • Benzodiazepines in two instances.

Some of the nine people who tested positive were found to have more than one drug in their systems, according to police. 

"Cannabis is something we have seen on the road. We've also seen cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines that are also being used by individuals that have been on the road," he said.

The project used drug-screening devices Alere and Securetec through random stops and R.I.D.E spot checks.

The devices malfunctioned in 13 per cent of the tests, according to police, which means any results would likely be inadmissible in court.

The devices measure the presence of the drug, not how impaired someone is.

Detecting drug-impaired drivers a challenge

The federal government is expected to approve roadside saliva tests to detect drug use in its marijuana bill that is expected to be tabled Thursday. But what device will be used and what the legal limit will be have not yet been announced.

The Cannabis Task Force recommended in their final report that the federal government, "support the development of an appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels, and invest in these tools."

They also noted "roadside testing tools to measure THC presence in a driver's system are in development."

"Once the legislation is tabled, which will include the amount of drug you would be able to have on board...then we as a service, with appropriate equipment, we would be able to move forward with proper enforcement," Stibbe said.

Public Safety Canada is now reviewing the data.

Results from the second half of the pilot project are expected to be released soon.

In the meantime, specially trained Drug Recognition Evaluators (DRE) can conduct Standard Field Sobriety Tests to patrol for drug-impaired drivers.

Toronto police arrested 86 drug-impaired drivers last year.

This year to date, they have arrested 12 people for drug-impaired driving, compared to 10 people by this time in 2016.

About the Author

Linda Ward

CBC Toronto reporter

Linda Ward is CBC Radio's dogged early morning multi-media reporter. Armed with an iPhone and a bit of ingenuity, she brings the latest news from overnight to the city. Linda is a mother to two beautiful young girls, a perpetual volunteer, and an adrenaline junkie. She first came to Toronto in 1987 from Dublin, Ireland.