Article by Sarah Leamon, Cannabis Life Network
The federal government has announced its intention to approve another roadside drug screening device.
The Abbott SoToxa is currently under a 30-day public consultation period. It could be approved for use by police as early as May 19, 2019. If it is, it will join the Draeger DrugTest 5000 as one of only two federally approved drug screening devices in Canada.
But what do we know about the Abbott SoToxa?
The short answer is not much…yet. The company that produced the SoToxa, Alere, was recently acquired by Abbott, a health-care manufacturing company based in the U.S.
What we do know about it, though, is that it has been largely touted as a better device than the Draeger DrugTest 500, which received a relatively frosty reception from police agencies across the country when it was introduced last August.
But how will they stack up?
Here are six things you need to know about the SoToxa
1. Both devices use saliva samples to test for a wide variety of drugs.
Although roadside drug screening devices were introduced for use in this country following the legalization of cannabis, they can test for more than just THC.
The SoToxa is capable of testing for THC – the psychoactive component of cannabis – as well as cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, methadone, amphetamine and benzodiazepines.
The Draeger may have one up on the SoToxa, as it also tests for all of these substances, plus ketamine.
Remember – driving while impaired by any drug is a criminal offence in this country. Drug impaired driving is not just limited to cannabis use, although there are specific provisions under the Criminal Code to deal with cannabis exclusively.
2. The SoToxa is much smaller.
When it was first introduced, many people were shocked with the Draeger DrugTest 5000’s appearance. After all, it is relatively large and looks more like a Keurig coffee maker than drug testing tool. This can make it clumsy and awkward to use on the roadside and in unsecured environments.
The SoToxa, on the other hand, looks much easier to use. With a hand-held, portable design, it looks lightweight and compact.
There is little doubt that police officers will prefer its design over the Draegers.
3. Some police officers may already be familiar with the SoToxa.
In the year leading up to the passage of Bill C-46, which allowed the use and approval of roadside drug testing equipment for the first time in Canada, Health Canada ran pilot projects with select police detachments across the country. They asked police to use two different devices – the SecureTech and the Alere – and to provide them with feedback about their functionality in the field.
When neither of these devices were approved, many people were shocked. After all, the feedback had been largely positive.