Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair says Canadian cops already have many of the tools they need to contend with legal marijuana, and the target date for legalization remains July 1, 2018.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, the now-MP for Scarborough Southwest responded to criticisms from police representatives who testified on Parliament Hill last week.
Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum of the Ontario Provincial Police, for instance, told the standing committee on health that unless police are given sufficient time to prepare and train their officers, organized crime will flourish and mistakes will be made.
Blair said much of that day’s testimony was misinterpreted.
“Let me be really clear on what they actually said,” he told Kapelos.
“What they said, and it’s in their written submissions as well, is that they need to know that the funding and the resources are going to be there … If they don’t get those resources and they can’t do the training then they won’t be able to do it, but we’re going to meet those conditions.”
Blair argued that the federal government recently announced $274 million to provide needed resources and that he has personally been meeting with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police for two years now.
WATCH: Ontario government unveils plan for selling legalized marijuana
“All of the enforcement authorities, all of the charges and the law that the police currently use to deal with organized crime, illegal production, illegal import exportation, illegal trafficking, none of that’s changing,” Blair added.
“They already have all of those tools and they’re keeping them.”
Canada’s provinces and municipalities must still roll out their own specific rules governing pot, however.
New Brunswick and Ontario have already done so, and Blair said he expects Quebec to follow suit “shortly.” Much of the new regulatory framework will be covered by the Provincial Offences Act in each province, said the former Toronto chief, and “quite frankly new regulations come out to the police all the time … we would use the tools that were available to us. Those tools are not changing.”
Blair said he doesn’t want to minimize the complexity of legalizing marijuana across the country in time for Canada Day 2018, and that there is still a lot of work to be done. But the risks associated with extending the deadline, like allowing unsafe products on the shelves at dispensaries or permitting the black market to continue making billions, is “unacceptable to me.”
“I think it’s important that we establish a date and let Canadians know what’s happening and what’s coming,” Blair said. “(July 1) is the date I’ve been given. That’s the date I’m working towards.”
Watch the full interview with Bill Blair above.
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