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Too high to drive? Enforcement of drug-impaired driving in Ontario could face roadblocks similar to those encountered in Colorado

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And a survey this year of more than 15,000 cannabis users in the state found that nearly 70 per cent of them had driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the past year. Forty per cent of them said they didn’t think it affected their ability to drive.

“It was a signal that reaffirmed our suspicion that a lot of marijuana users drive after using marijuana. And that’s problematic,” says Sam Cole, a safety communications manager at the Colorado Department of Transportation.

It’s a worrying trend across the U.S., where 12 of every 100 weekend nighttime drivers involved in crashes between 2013 and 2014 tested positive for THC, up from 8.6 in 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of this year, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states.

No one knows for sure whether legalization means more people will drive high on Ontario roads, yet rates of drug-impaired driving charges — not necessarily all cannabis-related — have increased here recently, according to Statistics Canada. They are still a fraction of alcohol-impaired charges.

But with Colorado seeing throwback attitudes about driving while under the influence of drugs — not unlike when people thought it was OK to drink and drive — police enforcement has become key.

“Until people aren’t driving impaired, we need to have a robust law-enforcement program that cracks down on drugged driving, just the way we have with alcohol,” Cole says. “Back in the 1980s when MADD started, and alcohol fatalities were sky high, and we started telling people don’t drive drunk, they were like, ‘Oh, I’m fine when I’m drunk. I’m a safer driver. I drive drunk all the time.’

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Next, officers attend a three- or four-day program in Jacksonville, Fla., one of a few locations where there are enough subjects from a nearby drug-dependence clinic who can provide the “volume and the breadth of drug diversity that we require,” says RCMP Sgt. Ray Moos, who is charge of the training.

There, an officer has to correctly assess 12 individuals and determine which category of drug — not only cannabis but drugs in other categories such as stimulants, depressants or hallucinogens — the subject is on.

The officer’s conclusions are then confirmed with a urine sample from the subject.

“It is a challenging course,” says Moos. “The course really assesses how drugs affect human physiology. Officers have to be competent with knowing a lot of different drugs and what category of drugs those drugs would fall under, and how those drugs affect the body.”

About two of the roughly 20 to 24 students in a class don’t pass, he says.

Here in Canada, the evaluations — which take 45 minutes — would be conducted at a police station after an arrest, which will occur based on what an officer sees or smells in the vehicle, from the state of the individual, or because of the results of the standardized field sobriety test, according to Moos.

Officers may also factor in the results of a roadside saliva test that can detect THC. Neither the RCMP nor the OPP have decided if or how they will deploy the devices, which can determine if the drug is present in the saliva but do not determine impairment. In Colorado, the saliva devices were tested earlier this year and the results of the tests will be released later this fall.

Drivers who are arrested may also be required to give a blood sample in accordance with the new legislation, although the RCMP says the “frequency with which this demand is used will be dependant on the jurisdiction in which the offence takes place and the mechanisms in place to facilitate a blood draw.”

Moos says that could mean a visit to a hospital emergency department or another setting, such as a medical clinic that has been authorized to draw blood. A suspected drug-impaired driver’s failure to comply “will result in criminal charges which carry the same penalty as driving while impaired,” says an RCMP spokesperson.

Jennifer Knudsen, traffic safety research prosecutor for Colorado, whose job is to help district attorneys throughout the state prosecute DUI cases for drugs and alcohol, says cannabis legalization has opened up a “whole new world.”

The DAs there not only have to be lawyers, she says, but medical experts, educating jurors on how THC impairs drivers because many of them don’t believe it does.

“Think about someone who is 25 and just graduated from law school and they may have never done a trial. And all of a sudden they have this case where they have to do the science and the law stuff,” she says. “It’s a huge challenge.”

The laws in Colorado around drug-impaired driving aren’t the same as in Canada. For instance, there’s no legal limit of THC concentration in the blood as there is here, where it’s five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. Instead, Colorado has a “reasonable inference” law, which says that a judge has the discretion to instruct a jury that a defendant is incapable of driving safely with that level of THC in their blood. It’s not used all the time.

And in many cases, blood isn’t taken, says Knudsen. Testing is expensive and about 30 per cent of drivers refuse the request, willing instead to take administrative penalties such as a licence suspension. As well, there aren’t experts available in far-flung parts of the state to interpret the results of the blood analysis for a jury.

There is also the issue of just how quickly THC leaves the blood.

Knudsen says studies have shown that blood concentration can drop 60 per cent just 15 minutes after someone takes a puff of marijuana. And for some people, taking more than the recommended dose of 10 milligrams of an edible may not result in blood concentrations above five nanograms per millilitre. Results can also differ, she says, depending on whether someone is an occasional user or uses all the time and typically has a baseline concentration in their blood.

“When you’re talking about numbers, and drugs that aren’t alcohol, it’s very difficult,” she says.

Typically, the more someone drinks, the higher the concentration of alcohol in their blood. But THC concentrations fall so rapidly in the blood it is difficult to correlate them to impairment.

In cases involving cannabis, “you could have someone with 23 nanograms and that person is not guilty,” says Knudsen. “And you could have someone who has two nanograms and is guilty. It’s hard.”

But Knudsen says drug recognition expert evaluations are rare and the state, similar to Washington where cannabis has also been legalized, has one of the lowest rates of evaluations in the world.

She says it’s because many of the officers who have the training are in supervisory roles or not available because they’re not on duty. Or she says, there may be one drug recognition expert covering a large geographic area who can’t make it to a site in time to make the evaluation worthwhile.

“There’s a lot of hurdles,” says Knudsen. District attorneys who prosecute the cases rely on what officers observe — what they see and smell in the car, and on the behaviour of the driver at the window, as well as in the roadside sobriety tests.

“We have to put all of that together. And that really is the crux of the case,” says Knudsen. “If we have a DRE evaluation, then that is really the icing on the cake.”

Officers trained as drug recognition experts in Canada (as of Oct. 1, 2018):

N.W.T.: 4 (RCMP), 8.9 per 100,000 pop.

P.E.I.: 13 (6 RCMP, 7 municipal), 8.5 per 100,000 pop.

Sask.: 74 (36 RCMP, 38 municipal), 6.3 per 100,000 pop.

Nova Scotia: 61 (29 RCMP, 32 municipal), 6.4 per 100,000 pop.

Nfld./Labrador: 27 (15 RCMP, 12 municipal), 5.1 per 100,000 pop.

New Brunswick: 28 (13 RCMP, 15 municipal), 3.7 per 100,000 pop.

Manitoba: 42 (17 RCMP, 25 municipal), 3.1 per 100,000 pop.

Yukon: 1 (RCMP), 2.6 per 100,000 pop.

Alberta: 102 (42 RCMP, 60 municipal), 2.4 per 100,000 pop.

B.C.: 111 (75 RCMP, 36 municipal), 2.3 per 100,000 pop.

Ontario: 240 (5 RCMP, 78 provincial, 157 municipal), 1.7 per 100,000 pop.

Quebec: 130 (0 RCMP, 53 provincial, 77 municipal), 1.5 per 100,000 pop.

Nunavut: 0

Total: 833, 2.3 per 100,000 pop.

Source: RCMP

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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