Po­lice ask to post­pone pot date

Po­lice of­fi­cials say they need more time to prop­erly train of­fi­cers about the new laws


OT­TAWA — Canada’s po­lice ser­vices say there is zero chance they will be ready to en­force new laws for le­gal­ized pot by next sum­mer.

Of­fi­cials from the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice, On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice and the Saska­toon Po­lice Ser­vice are among dozens of wit­nesses tes­ti­fy­ing to the House of Com­mons health com­mit­tee this week as it stud­ies the gov­ern­ment’s bill to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana.

They said Tues­day they need more time to prop­erly train of­fi­cers about the new laws and more than dou­ble the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers who are cer­ti­fied to con­duct road­side drug im­paired driv­ing test­ing. There also needs to be more time for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, the po­lice said.

If the gov­ern­ment doesn’t post­pone the start date there will be a win­dow of six months to a year when po­lice aren’t fully ready, which will al­low or­ga­nized crime to flour­ish, said OPP deputy com­mis­sioner for in­ves­ti­ga­tions and or­ga­nized crime Rick Bar­num.

The po­lice also want Ot­tawa to re­con­sider al­low­ing in­di­vid­u­als to grow up to four of their own mar­i­juana plants be­cause it will be dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to en­force and pro­vide an ad­di­tional way for young peo­ple to get ac­cess to pot.

“Why do you need home grows when we’re going to have a good sys­tem to ac­cess mar­i­juana legally?” asked Bar­num.

Bar­num said the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice of­fi­cially wrote to the gov­ern­ment this week to re­quest a de­lay in im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The Lib­er­als have pledged pot will be le­gal in Canada by the sum­mer of 2018.

While le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational pot will lighten their work­load — there were 16,000 charges laid for sim­ple pos­ses­sion in 2016 — po­lice said it brings a whole host of other prob­lems, in­clud­ing an ex­pected rise in com­plaints about neigh­bours own­ing pot plants, sus­pected grow-ops, and rob­beries and home in­va­sions.

The po­lice re­quest for a de­lay comes af­ter Canada’s pre­miers warned the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in June that they may not be ready with provin­cial laws and reg­u­la­tions to ac­com­pany the fed­eral bill by next sum­mer. Thus far the gov­ern­ment has not changed course.

While Ot­tawa’s bill sets 18 as the min­i­mum age for us­ing le­gal mar­i­juana, prov­inces can choose to make that age higher if they want. They also have to de­ter­mine how and where le­gal pot will be sold.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment last week an­nounced its in­ten­tion to open up to 150 provin­cial pot stores man­aged by the Liquor Con­trol Board of On­tario, as well as an on­line pot de­pot op­tion. On­tario also set the min­i­mum age for pot use at 19 to match the le­gal drink­ing age in the prov­ince.

Bar­num said the On­tario plan seems good to po­lice be­cause it will en­sure any­one sell­ing pot is prop­erly reg­u­lated and sub­jected to thor­ough back­ground checks.

The cops said or­ga­nized crime is a se­ri­ous prob­lem in the med­i­cal mar­i­juana sys­tem in Canada. While there is no way to elim­i­nate it in the recre­ational mar­ket, they said if the laws are in­tro­duced slowly and with proper time to im­ple­ment, there is a chance to re­duce or­ga­nized crime’s in­volve­ment some­what.

Bar­num es­ti­mated po­lice will need six to eight months from the time all leg­is­la­tion at the provin­cial and fed­eral level is in place be­fore they will be fully ready to en­force the new laws.

The po­lice say they also need more time and money to train of­fi­cers to rec­og­nize and han­dle drug-im­paired driv­ers.

The In­ter­na­tional Drug Eval­u­a­tion and Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Program is only of­fered in the U.S. cur­rently, and takes more than a week of course work and a field eval­u­a­tion su­per­vised by a trained of­fi­cer.

Bar­num said cur­rently there are just 83 OPP of­fi­cers who have the drug-im­paired driv­ing recog­ni­tion train­ing, and the force es­ti­mates it will need at least 400 to 500 with the train­ing to prop­erly en­force the law.

Na­tion­ally, the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice es­ti­mates there need to be at least 2,000 of­fi­cers with the train­ing, up from about 600 now.

“We need a made-for-Cana­dian polic­ing so­lu­tion to this and we need to bring that train­ing here if we’re going to train them as quickly as pos­si­ble,” said Mike Serr, deputy chief of the Ab­bots­ford Po­lice Depart­ment and co-chair of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s drug ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

A mar­i­juana plant at the Amer­iCanna Edi­bles fa­cil­ity in Boul­der, Colo. Canada’s po­lice ser­vices say there is zero chance they will be ready to en­force new laws for le­gal­ized pot by next sum­mer.

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