The zero-tolerance approach to cannabis and driving will have to wait

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Even if the devices used to detect the THC are created, they will in no way determine if a person is truly intoxicated.

The principle of zero tolerance for marijuana and driving do not apply on Quebec’s roads at the time the substance will become legal in Canada, in July 2018.


It will even be unenforceable by what science and technology can help to detect the recent use of cannabis, acknowledged Monday, the minister responsible for the file, Lucie Charlebois.


“When you’re going to have the approval of Health Canada and the department of civil Security, here in Quebec, we will put the zero tolerance. Not before, ” said the delegate minister for public Health and healthy life habits in the Duty.


His government could, however, wait for a long time. Even if the devices used to detect the THC are created, they will in no way determine if a person is truly intoxicated. As revealed recently The Duty, the results of many studies on this subject suggest that it will remain impossible to establish a correlation between the presence of THC in the body, and the psychotropic effects of marijuana.


This is precisely the conclusion of a pilot project on the devices of drug testing conducted by public Safety Canada in 2016 and 2017. “The presence of a drug in saliva do?not mean that there is impairment, ” noted the federal ministry in its final report.


The investigator Ryan Vandrey, Johns Hopkins University, who has conducted several studies on cannabis over the past four years, made the same observation. “Based on all the studies that have been conducted on the subject, the science demonstrates at this time that there is no level of THC in the blood or the saliva that allows to predict the level of intoxication,” -he said to the Duty.


An approach is never applicable ?


The approach of “zero tolerance” advocated by Québec could therefore never be applicable, according to professor Vandrey. “Zero tolerance will not work in an environment where cannabis is legally permitted, provides it already.


From the time when marijuana will be legal, Canadians will consume. And the regular users will always be THC in their body.


This cannabinoid, most abundant in cannabis, can stay in the saliva for a few hours, in the blood for a period of up to one week, and in the urine for up to a few weeks.


Result : police officers will need to analyze saliva, blood or urine of drivers will have a task that only science will never do, ” warns the expert.


“There has been enough studies conducted to find that there will always be problems to differentiate between alcohol intoxication and previous consumption of cannabis has no effect of intoxication on a subject “, has hammered the researcher. According to him, the government and the police will need to rely on a biological marker other than the presence of THC, or downright renounce tests saliva, blood or urine.


The minister Charlebois ‘ other claims. The device on which Health Canada works “will indicate a recent use,” she advanced. And “usually, when you have just consumed, you feel the effects,” she argues.


The pharmaceutical company Altasciences going in the same direction. According to the memorandum that it filed in the course of consultations with the public on the cannabis, it would be possible “to determine the level of THC that impair the ability to drive and to determine if the alcohol can amplify the effects” of the next 12 months, and moderately a financial assistance of 15 million dollars.


A more permissive ?


The minister has also suggested an application to permissive of the zero tolerance principle established in the draft law that it has filed on Thursday. “What we seek, that is, consumption recent. This is not a quantity in nanograms, ” she said. The draft law stipulates, however, that it is ” prohibited for any person to drive a motor vehicle or having the custody or control if there is any presence in your body, cannabis or other drugs “.


The approach of the federal is different. The Trudeau government plans to prohibit the driving of motorists with more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. This latitude needs to be able to save the regular users of marijuana — which will always have a bit of THC in the body — rather catch the occasional consumers.


The federal minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, did not want “to comment specifically on the bill of Quebec” on Monday.


The sick challenge


The principle of zero tolerance irritates also the grouping of Canadians for fair access to medical marijuana (CAEMM), which already plans to claim an exemption to the government for the 5,000 patients in quebec who would use cannabis for medicinal purposes.


According to the spokesperson Daphnée Elisma, zero tolerance is a ” very drastic “, since it provides for the immediate suspension of the driving licence for three months.


Patients would have already notified the organization that they will launch the zero tolerance in the courts if Quebec does not provide immunity in their cases.


The activist for access to marijuana Marc Emery promises to pay the lawyers of the quidams who are accused of driving while impaired by cannabis. “No government, at any level, can only cite a scientific study based and credible to validate the effect of cannabis at the wheel “, has also declared the founder of the Bloc Pot, Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who stressed in his turn that science does not establish the correlation between THC and intoxication.

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