The new Canadian breathalyzer law could be a total violation of privacy that could see you arrested in your own home.
You’re a good citizen. You recycle what you can. You’re also a consumer of fine, craft beers. You like to have one with every evening meal; you pair your pint with your plate. One weekend, after you’ve collected a few weeks worth of bottles, you decide to recycle them. Up until this point, you’ve done nothing criminally wrong. An officer sees you returning the bottles, pulls you over soon after you leave the store, and demands a breathalyzer because they saw you with ‘an excessive amount of bottles.’ Violation of privacy?
Canada’s New Breathalyzer Law
This mirrors the case of a Canadian man who was recently featured in a story by Global News. According to the new law in Canada, officers could approach him in his home up to two hours after the fact to ask for a breathalyzer.
The language of the new law gives police the right to breathalyze anyone up to two hours after the fact. That means you could get home, sip a couple of beers after work or smoke a joint, and ten minutes later be arrested for DUI when the police breathalyze you at the door. It seems unreal. And it seems like a complete violation of privacy.
It’s a slippery slope into criminalizing cannabis users in unique and ‘legal’ ways.
What is the Point of The New Breathalyzer Law?
The law, while aimed at preventing deaths on the road, seems to overstep into the realm of criminalizing legal behavior.
For example, you could be 100% sober when you get home from the grocery store. A neighbor thought you pulled into your drive too quickly and calls the police. Between the time you get home and the time the cops arrive, you’d consumed a quarter gram of cannabis. They arrest you for driving while impaired. You’d have to prove you weren’t using cannabis before you drove.
That’s a heavy burden of proof to lift. Criminal defense lawyers are already questioning its legality.
Should Police Ever Have the Right to Breathalyze?
The question of whether this new law is a violation of Canadians’ civil rights or not may need to eventually makes its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But it will be years before we hear from them on this issue. For now, let’s explore a more important question: should officers even be allowed to breathalyze people at all?
With reasonable cause, there is a persuasive argument to allow for this type of search. A severely drunk person should obviously be held accountable for getting behind the wheel.
But we’re not talking about alcohol. Alcohol and cannabis are not the same thing. For example, a light, cannabis tea in the morning might set you over the ‘legal’ limit without impairing you.
Cannabis Impair is Probably a Misnomer
Cannabis doesn’t seem to have the same negative effects on the motor system that alcohol does. Extreme sports athletes who launch their bodies 30 feet into the air frequently use cannabis. If you ask them why they consume cannabis, they’ll tell you the same thing: it helps them relax and be calm in the air, it facilitates their physical awareness and timing, and it removes the anxiety of the event which makes the processing easier. People who use pharmaceuticals to get through their day say the same thing. And the same argument can be made for people who know how to drive when on cannabis.
Banning people who regularly use cannabis is in some ways akin to banning people who drink coffee or use an anti-depressant. Coffee and cannabis are both plants delivering heated psychoactive chemicals to our brains to alter our mood and perception. An anti-depressant does the same in synthetic form. Do we ban people for taking Prozac before they drive?
We should really think carefully about how far we are into prohibiting people from using plants. When we’re discussing the likelihood of a breathalyzer to potentially criminalize legal behavior, we know we’re already treading into plant tyranny.
We don’t need people monitoring our tomato plants. The government doesn’t need to check in on your herbs. And it’s none of your neighbors’ business what’s growing in the shed behind the kitchen.
If we can sow it and grow it, we should be allowed to freely reap its rewards without a violation of privacy.