Police in Canada aren’t prepared for July legalisation

Photo source: Scott Davidson

By Jon Hiltz.

Tuesday September 12 marked the second day of hearings for the House of Commons Health Committee on Bill C-45, the legislation which will eventually legalise adult-use cannabis in Canada. During the proceedings, testimony from Canada’s police voiced significant concerns from the law enforcement community.

Senior police officials testified that the cops will not be ready for the July 2018 legalisation deadline and have requested more time.

“If legislation is ready to go July 2018, policing will not be ready to go August 1st. It’s impossible,” said Deputy Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, Rick Barnum. “This is a great step, but we’ve got to do it right and do it slowly and properly.”

Under the proposed legislation, police will have new directives in the areas of impaired driving and cannabis trafficking enforcement, as well as other enforcement responsibilities.

The outcry from police was joined by comments from Kevin Sabet, the president of US-based prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “The only people that benefit from speed in this issue are the business people that are really waiting to get rich. There is no benefit to going fast on this issue at all,” said Sabet.

Although marijuana legalization was promised by Prime Minister Trudeau during his election campaign, and huge steps have been taken to move legislation forward including the introduction of the bill, Sabet took the opportunity to suggest ending the idea altogether.

“I understand it maybe too late, but I still think that forgoing legalization in favor of reducing criminal sanctions and deterring marijuana use is the best way from public health,” he said.

Reducing criminal sanctions was highly unlikely from the get-go, considering the federal government has gone on record calling the 94-year prohibition of cannabis an “abject failure.

Thomas Carrique, the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Organised Crime Committee doesn’t appear confident in his officers’ ability to adapt quickly to the changing landscape either. Carrique added to the discord by stating that a lack of proper training for police on cannabis enforcement can lead to poor decisions and bad case law.

“This legislation will not eliminate organised crime, but there is an opportunity to mitigate the impact organised crime has on our communities,” said Carrique.

The Standing Committee on Health is holding a full week of uninterrupted hearings, with a wide variety of experts and stakeholders testifying on the effects of marijuana legalisation.

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