Ot­tawa ‘anx­ious’ to meet 2018 dead­line for mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - OPINION - SUE BAI­LEY

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Canada’s pub­lic safety min­is­ter says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is anx­ious to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana by next sum­mer de­spite po­lice ser­vices say­ing there’s zero chance they’ll be ready.

Ralph Goodale said Wed­nes­day the Lib­er­als just an­nounced $274 mil­lion over the next five years to help with po­lice train­ing and fight the in­volve­ment of or­ga­nized crime.

On Tues­day, po­lice from On­tario, Saska­toon and the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice told the Com­mons health com­mit­tee that they need more time. They say they re­quire an ex­tra six months to a year for proper po­lice train­ing and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion — with­out which or­ga­nized crime will flour­ish.

Goodale said Wed­nes­day the gov­ern­ment will lis­ten to that feed­back but has set out a timetable that he says is rea­son­able. The Lib­er­als have pledged pot will be le­gal in Canada by the sum­mer of 2018.

“This is a large trans­for­ma­tive ini­tia­tive. When you bring for­ward that kind of mea­sure ob­vi­ously it chal­lenges peo­ple to meet the ob­jec­tives but the time­frame is a solid one. The dead­line is 10 months away or 11 months away. There’s time there to move for­ward,” he said as he headed into the fi­nal meet­ing of a two­day fed­eral cab­i­net re­treat in St. John’s, N.L.

“Look, we’ve set the ob­jec­tive in July of next year and we’re anx­ious to achieve that ob­jec­tive.”

The po­lice of­fi­cials told the com­mit­tee 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.

Rick Bar­num, the OPP’s deputy com­mis­sioner for in­ves­ti­ga­tions and or­ga­nized crime, said the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice of­fi­cially wrote to the gov­ern­ment this week to re­quest a de­lay.

“If leg­is­la­tion is ready to go July 2018, polic­ing will not be ready to go Au­gust 1,” Bar­num told the com­mit­tee, which is meet­ing this week to study the fed­eral mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion. “It’s im­pos­si­ble. The time, the dam­age that can be done be­tween the time of new leg­is­la­tion and po­lice of­fi­cers ready to en­force the law in six months or a year can make it very, very hard to ever re­gain that foothold.”

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.

“Ob­vi­ously we will take all of the tes­ti­mony that will be of­fered to the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee into con­sid­er­a­tion. That’s what the hear­ings are for,” Goodale said Wed­nes­day. “We’ll lis­ten very care­fully to what all of the ex­pert ad­vice has to say. But the gov­ern­ment has put some very sub­stan­tial re­sources on the ta­ble to make sure the goals can be reached.”

While le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational pot will lighten of­fi­cers’ 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.

Goodale said he will be meet­ing with pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial min­is­ters of jus­tice and pub­lic safety this week to dis­cuss “the fur­ther work that will need to get done this fall and through the win­ter to make sure that the ob­jec­tives can be reached and done in a safe and ef­fec­tive man­ner.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is anx­ious to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana by next sum­mer de­spite po­lice ser­vices say­ing there’s zero chance they’ll be ready.

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