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Police say they need more resources to tackle drugged drivers

The P.E.I. government announced Thursday the legal age for marijuana use will be 19 and that it will be sold through stand-alone retail stores under the province’s liquor control commission.
Marijuana will be legalized this summer. FILE

Local police say they need more resources to combat driving while high as the federal government moves to legalize marijuana across Canada.

The key to reducing driving while high remains education, enforcement and keeping minors from accessing or using marijuana once Ottawa legalizes the drug.

“Currently police forces throughout Pictou County, Nova Scotia and Canada use drug recognition officers who deal with impaired drivers. They can determine if they are under the influence of drugs,” said const. Ken MacDonald at New Glasgow Regional Police.

Police will need to train more such officers to spot high drivers as marijuana becomes legally available in stores.

But keeping the drug out of young drivers’ hands will be a major priority – and resources to help youth are limited.

Locally, youth do have a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and police also partner with schools to educate students on the health and safety risks around substance abuse.

Unlike many other Canadian communities, New Glasgow does not have a Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth program.

PARTY educates teens aged 15 and up about crashes caused by driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the deaths or serious injuries that can result, such as paralysis.

Students learn first-hand from emergency personnel and injury survivors about the life-changing results of choosing to drive drunk or high.

Next, they watch as a mock trauma patient is rescued from a vehicle and rushed to hospital where they may yet ‘die’, a realistic scenario of what can happen when people drive under the influence.

But MacDonald said that PARTY in New Glasgow had “fallen by the wayside.”

“It has to be expanded not only to youth but also in terms of the general population,” said MacDonald of education.

Last year, a total of 104 people were charged by New Glasgow Regional Police for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

“Our main goal is to eliminate that to zero but we’ll need the resources to bring that number down,” said MacDonald.

Penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence are severe. Typically, those found guilty receive a criminal record, one-year driving ban and a $1,000 fine.

However, the real cost for convicted drivers is close to $10,000 when court and legal fees, together with payments for driver improvement, travel costs and high insurance premiums are included, warned MacDonald.

Should a convicted driver apply for a pardon, the cost climbs yet again by several hundred dollars.

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