The Canadian government is set to approve a second roadside device authorized for use by law enforcement personnel to detect the presence of THC in drivers. In an order released on April 20, the Canadian Department of Justice announced a proposal to add the SoToxa drug screening device to the list of approved equipment for roadside tests. The proposal would add three pieces of equipment that are designed to be used together– the SoToxa analyzer, a device to collect a saliva sample, and a cartridge used to hold the sample in the machine– to the list of equipment that may be used by police in roadside drug screenings. The SoToxa equipment analyzes a saliva sample provided by a driver to detect the presence of THC.
“Approval of the SoToxa™, the Abbott SoToxa™ Test Cartridge and the Abbott SoToxa™ Oral Fluid Collection Device, when used together, as ‘approved drug screening equipment,’ would permit its use by law enforcement. A positive result would be a strong indication of recent use,” the order reads.
Panel Recommends Approval
The Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, an independent group of forensic toxicologists, evaluated the SoToxa system and recommended that Attorney General David Lametti approve the equipment for use by police in roadside screenings for THC. The device is currently undergoing a 30-day public consultation period pending approval.
Police in Canada are currently limited to the sole approved device, the Drager Drug Test 5000, for roadside drug screenings. The Drager 5000 is approved for detecting the presence of THC and cocaine. The device is also used by numerous departments in the United States and other countries, although its functionality, particularly in cold weather, has been criticized.
Canadian police gained the authority to conduct roadside drug screenings of drivers with the passage of Bill C-46, which was approved by Parliament last year along with Bill C-45, the measure that legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Bill C-46 also makes it illegal to drive within two hours of being over impairment limits. Although the failure of a roadside drug screening test is not by itself a crime and the results cannot be used in court, it can lead to further police action including a blood test to determine legal impairment.