East Yorkers can expect to be asked about cannabis as well as alcohol this year when they roll down the window for the Toronto Police’s holiday RIDE program.
RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) will run through the holiday season. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of impaired driving.
Last year in East York, TPS stopped 14,959 vehicles. Of those stops, 13 drivers received warnings and 12 drivers failed the impairment test.
Toronto Police have purchased two Dräger DrugTest 5000s to test drivers’ saliva for traces of cannabis, specifically THC, the psychoactive component of the drug. It also tests for traces of cocaine.
Police officers check for impairment by observing the driving and behaviour of the driver. If an officer suspects impairment, then devices such as a breathalyzer or the Dräger can be used.
“Oral fluid devices are good tools for officers to detect the presence of drugs if the officer suspects a driver could be impaired,” said Sgt. Brett Moore of Toronto Police traffic services. “It doesn’t prove impairment or anything like that, but it gives the officer an indication that there is a drug in that person’s system.”
One way the Dräger device could be used during the RIDE program is to test commercial truck drivers and young drivers. There is a zero-tolerance cannabis and alcohol policy for those groups.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding cannabis, Moore said, and it’s important for people who are trying it for the first time to be informed.
“Folks who might not have been users of cannabis in the past but now might want to partake because it’s recreationally legal, they might not know how it affects them,” he said. “What we’re asking is, don’t consume and drive a motor vehicle.”
When it comes to travelling with cannabis in the car, Toronto Police will be looking for clearly marked packages and at the amount.
“You can carry it with you as long as it was legally purchased, it’s a single-use amount and it is in a sealed bag,” Moore said. “It needs to be clear what it is and where it came from.”
Under no circumstances can the package be opened in the vehicle, similar to the laws surrounding open alcohol.
The point Moore wants to make clear is that while recreational cannabis consumption is now legal, driving while high has always been against the law.
“People should be able to enjoy legal substances as long as they’re following the laws and practising safety,” he said.