Day after legalization, Windsor police lay first cannabis-related driving charges

Day after legalization, Windsor police lay first cannabis-related driving charges
Police Lay Impaired Driving Charge During First R.I.D.E. Program Following Cannabis Legalization
Two motorists are facing cannabis-related driving charges after Windsor police conducted their first R.I.D.E. program since legalization of marijuana in Canada.

Windsor police conduct traffic stops as part of a R.I.D.E. program on the night of Oct. 18, 2018. Courtesy of Windsor Police Service / Windsor Star

It took just a day, but the first Windsor police R.I.D.E. deployment since legalization of marijuana in Canada resulted in cannabis-related charges.

As part of their regular campaign to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, officers set up traffic stops at two different locations in Windsor on Thursday night. Over the course of a couple of hours, more than 800 vehicles were stopped and inspected.

One adult male driver was charged with operating a motor vehicle while having cannabis readily available. He was issued a provincial offence notice involving a $215 fine.

“That’s under the Cannabis Act,” said Windsor police spokesman Sgt. Steve Betteridge, referring to a new federal law that came into effect Oct. 17. “A good way to think of it is similar to the rules for alcohol. If it’s within reach of the driver, it is readily available. If it’s open (container) — not in a sealed package — it’s readily available.”

Another adult male driver showed signs of suspected impairment by cannabis. Police said he performed poorly on the standard field sobriety test and drug recognition evaluation.

The driver was arrested and charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle. He has been scheduled for a future court date.

Under the current system, when a police officer suspects a driver is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, the officer can conduct a series of so-called field sobriety tests, which include examining the drivers eyes and observing how they walk and turn, and if they can stand on one leg.

Earlier this week, Windsor police released a video showing elements of the sobriety test and evaluation process — such as the horizontal gaze test, which requires the subject to follow an object with his or her eyes; the “walk and turn” test, which requires the subject to step along a narrow line; and the one-leg stand test, which requires the subject to balance on one foot while counting out loud.

Windsor police conduct traffic stops as part of a R.I.D.E. program on the night of Oct. 18, 2018. Courtesy of Windsor Police Service / Windsor Star

Betteridge pointed out that impaired driving is not a new crime, and Windsor police have long been committed to enforcing against it, whether the impairment is by drugs or alcohol or any combination thereof.

“What is new is the legalization of cannabis,” Betteridge said. “Nobody has a crystal ball. Nobody knows if our impaired driving charges in the future will go up or not. We’re hoping not. But we are prepared to enforce the law and keep our roadways safe.”

If the officer believes there are grounds for testing for drug impairment, a broader 12-step Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation (DREE) may be conducted by a qualified officer, who has the option of demanding a blood, saliva or urine sample.

During Thursday’s R.I.D.E. stops, another driver received a three-day licence suspension for having blood alcohol content exceeding 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has defended the device, which samples saliva for the presence of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. She has said its not the only tool available to police.

In all, the Windsor police traffic enforcement unit performed 38 enforcement actions during the R.I.D.E. deployment and later the same night.

Vancouvers police department is among those that wont use the Drager DrugTest 5000 because it says the device doesnt work in sub-zero temperatures, is bulky and takes too long to produce a sample.

Windsor police remind the community that cannabis legalization is “an adjustment for our entire country.”

Tom Singleton, who has practised criminal law for 25 years in Halifax, says the problem is that the tests police currently use to assess drug impairment are too subjective and somewhat inaccurate.

Members of the public who observe a driver suspected of being impaired are encouraged to call 911 and be ready to provide relevant information, such as licence plate, vehicle make or model, and last direction of travel.

Singleton said it has been his experience that the conviction rate for drug-impaired driving is only about 50 per cent, which is far below the conviction rate for drivers impaired by alcohol.

Windsor police have handed out their first ticket related to legalized cannabis in Canada, after a man was allegedly found with cannabis "readily available" in his vehicle while driving. 

Hundreds of people lineup at a government cannabis store Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 in Montreal as the legal sale of cannabis begins in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

"That is an offence under the Cannabis Act and that ticket, with the victim fine surcharge, is $215," said Sgt. Steve Betteridge. 

The man was ticketed during a R.I.D.E. inspection on Thursday night — the first conducted by the Windsor Police Service since the new cannabis laws came into effect on Oct. 17.

There were two separate inspections with more than 800 vehicles checked by police officers over a two-hour period, according to Betteridge. 

Windsor police arrested and charged another man with impaired operation of a motor vehicle during the traffic check.

The Ontario Provincial Police in Sarnia also issued their first ticket under the Cannabis Act on Thursday. 

The OPP said a 38-year-old Toronto man was stopped by police after reportedly driving "a luxury vehicle" erratically on Highway 402.

He was issued a ticket for $215 after police found cannabis readily available in the vehicle, according to the OPP. 

No person shall drive or have the care or control of a vehicle or boat, whether or not it is in motion, while any cannabis is contained in the vehicle or boat.

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