Of­fi­cers de­cry ‘of­fen­sive’ lim­its

Some po­lice forces adopt­ing pot pol­icy that pro­hibits or se­verely lim­its off-duty use

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - NATIONAL NEWS - JIM BRON­SKILL

OT­TAWA — Some po­lice forces are im­ple­ment­ing non­sen­si­cal and down­right of­fen­sive poli­cies that pro­hibit or se­verely limit off-duty cannabis use, says a na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents front-line of­fi­cers.

The critical com­ments come as the RCMP and the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice both eye a rule that would bar cannabis use by mem­bers within 28 days of a shift.

The Cal­gary po­lice ser­vice’s pol­icy is even stricter, for­bid­ding the vast ma­jor­ity of of­fi­cers from con­sum­ing mar­i­juana dur­ing their down time once recre­ational use of the drug be­comes le­gal Oct. 17.

Tom Sta­matakis, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, won­ders why cer­tain forces are treat­ing cannabis dif­fer­ently than other le­gal prod­ucts — such as al­co­hol and pre­scrip­tion drugs — that can cause im­pair­ment.

“Ef­fec­tively what they’re say­ing is, we don’t trust po­lice of­fi­cers to make the right de­ci­sion when it comes to re­port­ing for work fit for duty,” Sta­matakis said in an in­ter­view. “And I just find that to be an of­fen­sive ap­proach.”

There has been no mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion on the draft­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion of cannabis poli­cies for of­fi­cers, which vary dras­ti­cally from force to force, Sta­matakis said.

“You want to cre­ate poli­cies that are rel­e­vant and ef­fec­tive and that ap­ply to the vast ma­jor­ity of your mem­bers, not poli­cies that are de­signed to cater to the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule.”

The Ot­tawa and Van­cou­ver po­lice serv- ices are among those with per­mis­sive poli­cies that will al­low off-duty cannabis use with no time re­stric­tions, as long as of­fi­cers show up ready and able to do their jobs.

In con­trast, the na­tional po­lice as­so­ci­a­tion has been told the RCMP pol­icy would for­bid cannabis use by of­fi­cers 28 days be­fore work.

“It’s ef­fec­tively an out­right pro­hi­bi­tion,” Sta­matakis said.

The Moun­ties said as re­cently as last week they were still work­ing on a pol­icy. The force had no ad­di­tional com­ment Tues­day.

The Toronto Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents of­fi­cers in Canada’s largest city, says while it is aware the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice ser­vice has drafted a cannabis-use pol­icy, it has not yet seen a copy.

“We are aware the draft pol­icy may con­tain a 28-day wait­ing pe­riod be­fore a mem­ber can re­port for duty af­ter con­sum­ing cannabis,” as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Mike McCor­mack said Tues­day in a state­ment.

“Once the TPA re­ceives an of­fi­cial ver­sion of the pol­icy deal­ing with this topic we will per­form a le­gal anal­y­sis of its con­tent for com­pli­ance with our col­lec­tive agree­ments, leg­is­la­tion, hu­man rights, case law, etc. and make a de­ci­sion about any fur­ther ac­tion we may take at that point in time.”

Work­places across the coun­try — par­tic­u­larly those with a role in en­sur­ing pub­lic safety — are grap­pling with rules on cannabis use as le­gal­iza­tion looms.

Im­pair­ment, in­clud­ing im­pair­ment as a re­sult of al­co­hol, opi­oids, cannabis or any other le­gal or il­le­gal drug, is pro­hib­ited in all fed­eral work­places, the government says. The Treasury Board Sec­re­tar­iat has asked fed­eral de­part­ments and agen­cies to update their codes of con­duct and re­lated poli­cies to re­flect cannabis le­gal­iza­tion.

Like the RCMP, other fed­eral public­safety agen­cies are scram­bling to get their pot-use poli­cies in place. Both the Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada and the Canada

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The RCMP and the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice are both ey­ing a rule that would bar cannabis use by mem­bers within 28 days of a shift.

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