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Quick and effective Cannabis testing remains out of reach

As cannabis is becoming legalized in more places, law enforcement and employers require the ability to test how impaired people are. However current tests only indicate the presence of the now legal drug.

Cannabis is becoming legal in more places year after year, but regulating its use in dangerous situations like driving or at certain jobs remains difficult due to the lack of adequate testing technology. The testing we use to detect cannabis right now is urine tests, hair analysis and saliva tests. However, getting the results of these tests may take days or weeks. And none of them are able to indicate how impaired a person is.

Cannabis may be prescribed to an employee but that does not entitle that person to be impaired at work. Employees who do want to meet their obligations while taking cannabis at work need to may need to prove that the drug helps with their specific disability, and get approval from their employer. Employers must ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace. Testing for cannabis is still a hot button issue in Canadian workplace law.

Roadside saliva tests for cannabis may be contested because there is currently no way of telling if someone is impaired or how much cannabis they have consumed. The Drager DrugTest 5000 is the first federally-approved roadside drug test. The drug test not only tests for THC — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — it also tests for amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and methadone. It has been used in Nova Scotia and is being rolled out in many cities across Canada. The Vancouver police chief has said his department will not be using the Drager DrugTest 5000 because it “does not meet our requirements.”

A report from CTV cites a study in Norway that found that the device produced such a significant amount of both false positives and false negatives, that it wasn’t considered reliable. “It’s inevitable that we’re going to see constitutional challenges as soon as this device hits the roads,” lawyer Kyla Lee told CTV.  

Driving impaired is known by many to be very dangerous and deadly, but still 4 in 10 people found driving under the influence of cannabis downplayed the risk. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, drivers killed in car accidents are more likely to have drugs in their system than alcohol.

Image; flickr/ Scott Davidson

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