Hamilton police have purchased five Draeger 5000s, the roadside screening device that tests saliva for drugs.
In Canada they’re approved to test for cannabis and cocaine.
But the machines, purchased with a grant from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, are not yet being used on the road here in Hamilton. And when they are used, they’re not expected to be used for impaired driving charges.
So far, Const. Claus Wagner, who manages the traffic program, is the only Hamilton police officer trained to use the device. He took a course in January and the police service received the devices at the end of February.
Hamilton police are awaiting programming, expected through the Ontario Police College, to allow Wagner to train other officers, he said.
The devices have been controversial, in part, because of questions about how long cannabis may remain detectable in someone’s system.
This is how the devices work: a trained offer takes a swab inside the mouth of a driver suspected to have used drugs, and that sample is placed in the device. The Draeger 5000 can only detect the presence of drugs, not the amount.
So the plan is, at least initially, to use the device to test novice, G1 and commercial drivers who are legally not allowed to have any cannabis in their system. If the test is positive, those drivers face automatic licence suspensions.