CACP Discussion Paper – Government Introduces Legislation to Legalize Cannabis
04/28/17 - 04/28/18
The Government of Canada has now introduced legislation to ‘legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis in Canada’ - a position taken by the Liberal Party during their 2015 election campaign. Leading up to this introduction, the government held a series of consultations and mandated a Federal Task Force to provide a report helping to shape this legislation. The CACP participated in this process.
Our role from the beginning has been to share our expertise with the government to help mitigate the impact of such legislation on public safety. Extensive discussions within the CACP membership and various Committees formed the basis of our advice.
Earlier this year, the CACP issued a Discussion Paper entitled “Recommendations For the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. https://cacp.ca/index.html?asst_id=1332 This paper will continue to provide important background into many of our areas of support and concern which can be applied to the new legislation.
Key Themes Impacting Policing in Canada:
- A primary concern of policing in Canada is impaired driving. This is an issue today. It will become an even greater issue with legalization.
- The government has put forward strong legislation not only focused on impairment by drugs, but also addressing on-going issues related to alcohol impairment.
- Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provisions of the criminal code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening and eliminating common ‘loophole’ defenses.
- Quite frankly, Canadians have not been getting the message when it comes to impaired driving and it remains a leading criminal cause of death in Canada. The CACP had previously expressed concerns with regards to current perceptions and attitudes towards drug-impaired driving. We are hopeful that significant investments in education combined with tough new penalties introduced in this legislation will help drive home the message that alcohol and/or drugs and driving don’t mix.
- Certainly the policing community has many questions, as outlined in the CACP’s Recommendations to the Task Force, that have yet to be addressed by the government, namely:
- Will adequate and ongoing funding be provided in advance of the stated goal of legalization prior to July 1, 2018 to train officers and drug recognition evaluators (DREs), purchase and maintain oral fluid devices, increase forensic laboratory capacity to process bodily fluids and sustain our ability to enforce this legislation?
- Will funding be available to develop a Canadian DRE training and accreditation program, to reflect our own standards/models, reduce overall costs and ensure availability of training to our officers?
- Are the per se limits supported by scientific evidence and will they stand up to potential challenges within our judicial system?
- Will the provinces/territories be introducing complimentary enforcement regimes to discourage drug impaired driving, enhance public safety and provide for efficient and effective enforcement?
Personal Cultivation / Possession Within a Dwelling:
- As outlined in our recommendations to the Task Force, the CACP has long been against in-home production. While these concerns remain, the limiting of 4 plants per household as opposed to per person mitigates some concern and assists in terms of concerns with regards to diversions.
- Once again, this is not to say our opinion could not change, only that it be further considered at a later date as we all gain experience with a legalized system.
- The CACP continues to recommend the merger of the medical marijuana regime with the legalized regime to provide consistency and assist in reducing opportunities for diversion.
- A limit should also be placed on ‘personal’ possession within a private dwelling to assist in reducing the opportunity to traffic to youth or others.
- Given the breadth of the legislative amendments proposed under Bills C-45 and C-46, federally funded training of law enforcement officials is critical in order to ensure a smooth transition and that police interventions are lawful and effective.
- Reforms to impaired driving laws are significant. General awareness with regards to a legalized regime and changes to the criminal code will be required for all officers throughout Canada.
- Training must begin immediately in order to meet today’s requirements and those following legalization.
- The government needs to address and federally fund a national training initiative and ensure a national training standard is in place.
Impact on Policing Resources:
- It remains to be determined as to how significant the impact of legalization will be on policing resources. We have, however, noted the increased demands on the police with the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Consequently, we have more questions than answers. For example:
- How will front-line officers distinguish the difference between licit and illicit cannabis, particularly given the personal cultivation provisions.
- Proving a drug-impaired driving offence will be complicated and time consuming. The processing of blood samples will often be required to determine the level of THC per millilitre of blood. How will this impact policing?
- Does Canada have the capacity to do forensic tests? Investment in forensic lab services will be required and who will cover the costs of analysis?
- The role of police officers in providing education of youth within our schools.
- Will funding be available to subsidize any increase on policing resources should police services see demands for service rise?
- The need for a comprehensive public education strategy cannot be overstated, especially one focused towards youth, parents and vulnerable populations. It needs to begin immediately.
- Does the public have any sense as to what level of consumption of cannabis or other drugs would result in their being categorized within the limits as set out in this legislation.
- We know that organized crime is involved in the production, distribution, importation and/or exportation of illicit cannabis and this also extends into the legally regulated medical marijuana industry here in Canada.
- The government needs to put in place stronger security screening for those operating within the business model (production licenses, distribution channels), including medicinal marijuana, to eliminate or reduce the involvement of organized crime.
- Under the current medical marijuana regime, there are opportunities for ‘designated persons’ to grow large amounts of marijuana on behalf of others with little oversight.
- This presents many challenges to law enforcement and provides for a very significant threat for diversion by individuals and organized crime counter to the overall objectives of legalization.
- The CACP questions why the legalized and medical cannabis regimes cannot be combined once legalization comes into force (from a supply point of view). Why have an unregulated, open supply system where ‘other people can grow’ separate from the legal framework?
Occupational Health and Safety Standards:
- The development of occupational and safety standards remains to be addressed and would understandably have a significant affect within policing. Again, we have more questions than answers.
- A national dialogue must begin and we look to the federal government to begin this process.
About the CACP:
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was established in 1905 and represents approximately 1,000 police leaders from across Canada. The Association is dedicated to the support and promotion of efficient law enforcement and to the protection and security of the people of Canada. Through its member police chiefs and other senior police executives, the CACP represents in excess of 90% of the police community in Canada which include federal, First Nations, provincial, regional and municipal, transportation and military police leaders.