Ready or Not, Legalization will Come
Members of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police ECACPF have been ramping up to be as ready as possible for the looming legalization of marijuana. However, there are a few outstanding issues that are having an impact on police readiness.
Legislation is not yet final
Federal legislation regarding cannabis growth, distribution and impaired driving is quite advanced, but a number of articles are still being discussed. There are still many unknowns with respect to provincial and municipal regulations outlining the rules for points of sale and public consumption. Only when legislation is finalized can the police truly determine the potential impact on resources, tools and/or training.
In anticipation of the new laws, the CACP is pleased to be working with the RCMP, Public Safety Canada and the Canadian Police Knowledge Network to develop an Introduction to Cannabis online training module we hope to start delivering in July of 2018.
Impaired driving: Our number one concern
The good news is that an estimated 3,380 Canadian police officers are already trained to conduct road-side Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) with an additional 650 officers certified as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). The bad news is, we expect to have to double these numbers to address the projected increase in impaired driving. The capacity is currently not there to deliver the amount of training required in the short-term. We are working with police colleges and partners to increase our capacity.
With respect to oral fluid drug screening devices, the National Research Council has not yet completed its assessment of potential tools, and standards have yet to be approved by the Attorney deneral of Canada.
While we applaud the $81 million in federal funding to support police readiness, details regarding how the funding will be
allocated through the provinces and into the hands of municipal police services still remain unclear.
As a result, police services are, for the most part, unable to budget and plan for the purchase of devices, officer training and other costs.
Licensed distribution network
The price of legalized cannabis has yet to be set but must be as low or lower than marijuana sold on the “black market” to discourage price undercutting and illicit sales. There must also be stricter security clearance requirements to safeguard against criminal organizations becoming licensed growers and distributors.
There are many myths and misconceptions to be dispelled. This is why the CACP stresses the need for clear packaging and labeling, combined with strong and sustained education campaigns to increase awareness about the dangers and/or penalties of consumption, trafficking and impaired driving.
While police agencies may not be 100 per cent ready on day one; we will maximize our resources, adopt a phased approach and keep assessing our progress. We are confident in our ability to keep
Canadian communities and roads safe.
Mario Harel, O.O.M. is Chief of Police for the city of Gatineau and President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.