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New Roadside Cannabis Test Approved for Use in Canada

July 18, 2019
roadside cop traffic stop canada highway
After a 30-day public consultation, Justice Minister David Lametti approved a second saliva-testing machine to test for the presence of drugs.

Like its predecessor, the Drager DrugTest 5000, the newly approved Abbott SoToxa cannot test for drug impairment but can, in the words of the notice from the federal government, “presumptively confirm the presence of the drug and, combined with other observations made by the police officer, may provide grounds for the investigation to proceed further.”

While the machines are equipped to test for cocaine and methamphetamine as well as THC, they’re only approved for testing the presence of cannabis in Canada.

The essential difference between the SoToxa and the DrugTest 5000 is that the SoToxa works a few minutes quicker and functions better in cold weather, but many of the criticisms applied to the DrugTest device may be applied to the SoToxa.

(Though some complaints are particular to the Drager device. In May, two Vancouver lawyers found a Drager DrugTest 5000 device delivered false positives for THC in those who had consumed CBD oil.)

According to the National Post, two of the four submissions made during the public consultation were critical of the devices. One questioned the ability of the device to detect recent cannabis use versus cannabis used several days prior, while the other suggested the devices could not measure any level of impairment.


Nova Scotia Woman Plans Constitutional Challenge of Roadside Cannabis Test

Numerous defence lawyers believe the devices will soon be challenged in court.

A likely challenger is Sackville, NS medical-cannabis user Michelle Gray, whose license was suspended and her car impounded after a Drager DrugTest 5000 showed the presence of THC. She was later found to be non-impaired under further examination, but her license remained suspended and her car remained in the lot all the same.

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image

Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse B. Staniforth is the editor of the free cannabis-industry
newsletter WeedWeek Canada. He also reports on Indigenous issues,
cybersecurity, and food safety.

View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles

  • jontomas

    It doesn’t matter how good any device is at detecting THC in the system. — Marijuana is not alcohol. The preponderance of the research shows marijuana consumption is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

    In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk.

    In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that drivers who had recently consumed marijuana were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not under the influence of any alcohol or drugs.

    Studies show medical marijuana law states have lower traffic fatality rates compared to states that haven’t legalized.

  • Afshin Nejat

    As far as I can tell, people normally found driving on the road are already impaired.

  • Joe Dixon

    The tests for impairment should go more in the direction of testing the reaction time of the suspect, their ability to walk in a straight line and their speaking ability and pupil dilation, only then should the police then proceed to use these machines to detect the presence of drugs. The idea that the person is impaired by something and that their ability to drive is impaired and the public safety should be of prime importance, not so much what they have consumed. Many types of diseases or illnesses such as diabetes, anemia etc. could produce the symptoms of impairment plus many legal prescription drugs also. Someone who is driving dangerously due to their heart drugs should be treated just as much a threat to the public safety as someone who is stoned on marajuana.