Ex-police chief Bill Blair to play leading role in marijuana legalization

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair smiles during a news conference with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, Monday April 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Former Toronto police chief and rookie Liberal MP Bill Blair will play a “leading role” in the Liberal government’s push to legalize and strictly regulate marijuana.

Andrew Gowing, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, confirmed Blair’s role in an emailed statement Friday.

“In his capacity, Parliamentary Secretary Blair will work closely with the three departments with shared responsibility for this file: Justice, Public Safety and Health. He will also work with the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Task Force members, once it is convened, whose expertise will assist the Government in developing legislative and policy responses on this issue,” wrote Gowing.

“The Minister of Justice and her colleagues are confident that Parliamentary Secretary Blair’s experience and background in public safety will be a great asset to the government’s work to ensure a careful and thoughtful approach to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”

During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.”

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Last April, Blair spoke to Global’s The Morning Show about marijuana legalization.

“In the regulation of marijuana, then you can control who it is sold to, where it is sold and when it is sold. You can control the price. You can tax the thing,” he said.

“You can make sure the decision to not sell it to a 14-year-old is left to a responsible adult, not some gangster in a stairwell.”

WATCH: Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair discusses marijuana, carding, on The Morning Show, Apr. 30, 2015.

In that interview, Blair also likened marijuana legalization to alcohol.

“It’s another intoxicant. We control who it is sold to, when it’s sold, and how it is used. And organized crime doesn’t have the opportunity to profit from it.”

Clive Weighill, Saskatoon police chief and president of the Association of Chiefs of Police, says that members of his association know Blair quite well.

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“We’ve worked with him in the past. He has an in-depth knowledge of drug enforcement and what the issues are. I think we have an excellent working relationship and one that we can build upon.”

The organization is currently officially neutral on marijuana legalization.

“We don’t dictate public policy,” said Weighill. However, they will request to be included in the consultation process to develop the new regulatory regime.

Some of the issues that they would like to see addressed include:

  • new legislation on impaired driving while under the influence of the drug
  • a court-approved device for measuring THC levels
  • ways to keep marijuana away from youth
  • enforcement powers to help prevent people from selling marijuana outside the government-approved methods.

Blair’s knowledge of drug enforcement will be helpful, he thinks. “They’ve picked somebody that is knowledgeable on the subject and I think that’s really what you want is people that know intimately what some of the pros and cons are that can help drive this.”

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