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Impaired by Drugs

Impaired by Drugs

Governments across Canada are in a frenzied panic to come up with some better way to deal with drivers who are allegedly impaired by drugs. Suddenly this is a crisis. As though for the first time ever people who drive have discovered recreational drugs. In 2010 it was barely worth mentioning as a problem. In 2016 it threatens the very essence our of society. The war on drugs — what was that about? Oh yeah, what we have here is a war on the elusive driver impaired by drugs. What to do? Won’t somebody think of the children?

Yeah. Right.

If you’re cynical because this is likely the flavour of the month, or simply somebody’s attempt to get a little promotion for the Potzilizer 6000®, we’re with you. We handle lots and lots of impaired driving cases from all over Western Canada, including cases where there are serious accidents, deaths, blood draws, gas chromatography tests and all sorts of crazy expert opinions. In the rarest of rare cases do we see substances other than alcohol. In fact, of the last 500 cases we’ve handled, no more than 2 or 3 turned up evidence that would support impairment by substances other than alcohol. So what’s the big fuss?

The glorious pot of gold is in detection and treatment of alleged impaired drivers. That’s where companies like Stroh and Alcolock win big.

Who wins in the impaired driving industry?

There is, of course, an impaired driving industry. A primary job role of general duty police officers is to detect and apprehend impaired drivers. A significant portion of your tax dollars go toward paying police officers salaries. What about the tow truck drivers and tow yards? They cash in on schemes like our roadside prohibition laws that we have in BC. Then there are the prosecutors, clerks, judges, adjudicators, and defence lawyers (like us). All of these people earn a living in some manner or another processing people accused of impaired driving. We have the management and administrators of RoadSafetyBC. They earn top government salaries because of impaired driving. And then there’s MADD. Turns out MADD spends a shocking amount of money on fundraising. They’re one of the most affluent lobby groups on the planet.

Still, the glorious pot of gold is in detection and treatment of alleged impaired drivers. That’s where companies like Stroh and Alcolock win big. Companies that manufacture breathalyzers used by the police also win big. Just think for a moment what it means to be a supplier to the police.

The company that manufactures the roadside breathalyzers we use in BC is Intoximeters of St. Louis Missouri. The Canadian supplier of Intoximeters products is Davtech based out of Ontario. In 2014 we revealed massive problems with the roadside breathalyzers that we use in BC and as a result the government replaced each and every device (and started a program to conceal evidence) which meant the sales of thousands of devices. We estimate that BC Police forces purchased a combined total of about 5000 new roadside breathalyzers. That’s over $3 million. In addition they service the devices, perform annual inspections, sell the police the equipment and supplies to test them and they have the exclusive contract for replacements when one is destroyed in the field. All in all it’s big money. Which brings us back to the Potzilizer 6000®.

Impaired by drugs goldfish

Money is a motivator and a lot of people are motivated to create some sort of device to detect drivers who are impaired by drugs so they can sell it to the police and make a pile of money. Putting aside for a moment whether any such device could actually perform such a task, what we need to consider is the second component in the supply and demand equation. In other words, where is the demand?

If you build it, they will come

The philosophy of “if you build it, they will come” was discredited by General Motors when they introduced the Pontiac Aztek. Business people these days try to measure demand before they set out to produce a product. If the current market demand seems slight, one way to rectify this is to create demand.

The new Boogeyman

“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!” the Grinch simply said.

This phrase is eerily similar to that which is secretly uttered by people who want to sell equipment to the police, particularly those who want to sell drug-impaired driver detectors. If the police are ever going to spend our tax money buying equipment to detect drivers who are impaired by drugs, people must believe that there is a crisis of people who are impaired by drugs. In the last year MADD and various people who hope to cash in on drug impaired drivers have engaged in a concerted effort to persuade the public that the threat of drivers impaired by drugs is comparable to the threat of drunk drivers.

As for MADD, they’ll do anything for publicity which is what drives their fundraising. When it comes to companies hopeful to invent drug-detectors, it’s all about creating the perception of a problem which can be solved with their hopeful product. In other words, they’re telling us there’s a new boogeyman and they have the tool to defeat them (for a price).

The time is now

The time is always now, but at this particular point in Canada’s history, with the legalization of cannabis only months away, those who seek to cash in are lining up. Neo-prohibitionist groups, such as MADD, see this as a new battleground in their opposition to intoxicants of any form. If they make some noise, they’ll make some money. Others see their chance to create demand for products they hope to sell to the police.

Those people are already planning on what they’ll do with all of the money they’ll make. It’s a little gold rush.

What’s our take on actual impaired by drugs cases? As we indicated, there are so few that it’s barely worth mentioning. Those few that come across our desks rely on weak evidence that can’t substantiate the allegation and would be no better with the help of the Potzilizer 6000®.

So although it’s a little goldrush, it will produce very little gold for anyone.

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