Sask. applies zero tolerance policy to drug-impaired drivers

By Sarah Mills/CJME News Staff
November 29, 2017 - 9:05am

Ahead of the legalization of marijuana next summer, Saskatchewan’s government will apply a zero tolerance approach to drug-impaired driving.

The government is making that change because officers will soon have screening devices to better test whether a driver is drug-impaired or not.

The federally approved saliva test shows a positive or negative result for recent drug use at a specific level.

If deemed to be impaired, the driver will then face sanctions such immediate vehicle and license suspensions.

“The police officer will have to have sufficient reason to stop someone and test them for impairment, that’s the big factor,” SGI Minister Joe Hargrave told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t care if they are impaired by prescription drugs, legal drugs or illegal drugs, impaired driving is impaired driving and we can’t have impaired drivers on the road.”

In the recently released Cannabis Survey conducted by the government, 65.6 per cent of people agreed or strongly agreed that the same penalties for alcohol-impaired driving should apply to drug-impaired driving.

Police can currently lay an “impaired by drugs or alcohol” charge under the criminal code.  Federal Bill C-46 adds three new drug-impaired driving offences to the Criminal Code.

When Saskatchewan’s new legislation is passed, a driver charged with one of those three new charges, will also face administrative consequences under TheTraffic Safety Act:

● Immediate driver’s licence suspension until the court has disposed of the charge;

● 30-day vehicle seizure, or 60 day seizure if driver is also impaired by alcohol and has a blood alcohol concentration over .16 (vehicle owner responsible for towing and impound fees).

In addition to fines, jail time, driving suspensions and other sanctions imposed by the courts, a criminal code conviction will result in the following administrative consequences from SGI:

● Minimum one-year driving suspension to a maximum of five years;

● Penalties ranging from $1,250 to $2,500 under SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program, depending on the severity of the offence; and

● Requirement to complete prescribed education programs, as applicable, depending on the number of previous Criminal Code convictions.

The screening device is set at a high-level, so it won’t register the drugs in a driver who smoked a joint a week before.

“The federal screening device they’re going to be using will not test that small of an amount and show a positive, it is set much higher than that limit,” SGI’s Earl Cameron explained.

The screening devices are expected to be in use in the new year.

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