Marijuana will soon be legal in Canada and many are wondering what the consequences will be with respect to law enforcement and driving. While alcohol is always considered a deadly substance when mixed with driving, the stats are mixed when it comes to driving under the marijuana influence.
New roadside screening protocols will most likely incorporate oral fluid as the matrix for screening, but what exactly will this mean for Canadian drivers?
What happens when you get pulled over by law enforcement, and moreover, how will the impact of oral fluid and saliva drug testing be deployed for road-side screenings.
How and Why Does Saliva-Testing Work as Roadside Testing Devices?
When thinking about drug testing, the more common methods of screening include blood or urine. Saliva-testing or oral testing isn’t as top of mind. However, oral fluid (OF)1 is a suitable alternative matrix to screen drugs of abuse in a clinical, workplace or roadside environment. The main advantages of OF detection are the simplicity and non-invasiveness of sample collection, which can be easily observed (1), eliminating the need for special restroom facilities and same-sex collectors and making adulteration more difficult (2). The risk of infection risk is also much lower than blood (3), and OF better reflects recent drug use.”1
Instant oral fluid drug tests are used to detect the presence of various drug compounds in saliva. An absorbent collection device is placed in the mouth and the saliva collected is screened for drugs of abuse. The main advantage of oral fluid screening is the ability to detect recent drug use within the first moments of abuse with on the spot collection. Law enforcement officials could obtain a specimen in seconds and screen for possible impairment very quickly. A roadside saliva screening test requires approximately five minutes to administer, starting with a simple swab of the mouth and using a POCT screening device or instrument for analysis. If a presumptive positive result is obtained, a secondary saliva test, or blood sample, will be required to confirm the presence of the prescribed drug. These secondary specimens must be sent to a certified laboratory for further analysis using LC/MS (Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry.
How Accurate is Oral Fluid Screening as a Roadside Testing Device?
Most people would assume that blood and urine tests are the most accurate; however, the accuracy and sensitivity of devices can vary. Toxicologists and law enforcement officials are now pursuing further evaluation of various technologies and/or products. The accuracy may vary by product depending upon the drug being tested, but typically compares to the technology being used in laboratories.”4
When it comes to smoking and driving under the influence, it is important to understand the risk factors involved. With marijuana being legalized for recreational use this July, there is a growing concern that drivers may try and get behind the wheel making assumptions that it’s not as dangerous as alcohol. On the contrary, drivers under the influence of cannabis will face new regulations and new law enforcement strategies are being created minimize cause of death and injury in Canada.
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