Roadside 'drugalyzers' for marijuana favoured after testing

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Public Safety Canada may have found their solution for detecting high drivers once marijuana is legalized.

In a pilot project, Public Safety Canada, the RCMP and seven local law enforcement agencies including the Halifax Regional Police tested a pair of “drugalyzers” from December to March and recommend taking the devices to full-time use.

“The results from this pilot project indicate that with the proper training and standard operating procedures, these devices are a useful additional tool for Canadian law enforcement to better detect individuals who drive under the influence of drugs,” the report said.

The two devices — the Securetec DrugRead and the Alere DDS-2 — test saliva using swabs and are capable of detecting a variety of drugs. On average each test, including the explanation, collection and analysis, lasted 9.3 minutes.

With legalized cannabis on the way, MADD Canada has been pushing for these devices and is encouraged with the results.

“I’m not surprised it went as well as it did,” said Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, in a phone interview Wednesday.

Murie said Canada is late adopting this technology, which has been used by other countries for more than a decade.

“We’ve noticed in these other countries that there have been no real problems with them.”

The tests are to be used as a “screener” where, if you fail, you will be taken into the police station for a blood test. Murie said the devices won’t pick up the presence of marijuana four hours after ingestion.

With the positive results, Murie said the next step will be for the House of Commons to pass Bill C-46, which will add provisions to the Canadian Criminal Code allowing for roadside tests for drugs other than alcohol.

Of the 1,141 tests during the four-month trial, 15 per cent tested positive, mostly for cannabis, although methamphetamines, cocaine and opiates were also found.

Police reported that the devices worked well in most weather, proved fairly simple to use, and were durable. One officer mentioned having accidentally knocked the machine across the vehicle and out the other side, without harm to the device.

The report wasn’t all positive, however. Three devices were returned to the manufacturers after registering exclusively drug-positive results, and several of the Alere swabs began to leak buffer fluid when placed in the volunteers’ mouths. The company has said the fluid doesn’t pose any health risks.

Officers did notice that in extreme cold, the devices were more likely to produce drug-positive results.

“At present, it is unknown whether this finding is attributable to technical or procedural issues,” Public Safety Canada wrote in the report.

About 13 per cent of samples experienced a device malfunction, but 46 per cent of these malfunctions came from a printing-related issue. Public Safety Canada says this can be eliminated by printing results back at the office.

Public Safety Canada issued a series of recommendations for further police use of the devices. They will need to be reliable in extreme cold and be able to back up or store the results. Also, officers will need to be able to print off results both in the car and at the police station, and additional measures will be needed to keep swabs at the recommended temperature.

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Source: 420Intel – Politics

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