Federal government warned not to waste millions on testing experts say is flawed

The federal government plans to invest $81 million to train police officers to smoke out drivers impaired by pot across Canada while using a test experts say is flawed and that is being challenged in a U.S court.  An investigation by The Fifth Estate shows the tests done by police drug recognition experts (DREs) can lead to false arrests, are prone to police bias and according to one scientific expert are no better at detecting drug-impaired drivers than “flipping a coin.” “You can’t hijack science in the name of law enforcement,” says David Rosenbloom, a clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

“We know that with high enough concentrations [of marijuana] in the blood that driving is impaired so it’s not that we don’t need tests of impairment, it’s just that we need valid tests of impairment, and at this point in time we don’t have them.”

Canada’s minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, declined a request to be interviewed for The Fifth Estate investigation.

In a statement, Canada’s minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, said he believes there is enough evidence to support the use of DREs, pointing to a recent review by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction that found DREs are “valid and reliable.” That same review, however, also cautions that when it comes to detecting impairment, DREs have a “modest degree of accuracy,” between 43 and 62 per cent.

A recent report from Statistics Canada shows our system for convicting high drivers fails almost half of the time. Suspected drug-impaired drivers walk free nearly 40 per cent of the time, or twice as often as alcohol-impaired drivers.  In his statement, Goodale acknowledges more research in this area is “critical,” but is also hopeful a new saliva test in the works will help police determined if someone has recently consumed drugs.

CBC News Posted: Jan 26, 2018