With just under four months until Canadians can legally spark up a joint, some officials in B.C. say they’re worried about how much work is left to do under such a tight timeline.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that recreational cannabis will be legal as of October 17.
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Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie has been a vocal advocate for delaying the rollout of legal pot, and said there are still huge unanswered questions.
“The important thing is not only when the deadline is, but the kind of information that we need in order to do what we need to do at the local level,” said Brodie.
Brodie said he believes municipalities will be on the hook for most enforcement and regulation costs, and that he wants them to get 50 cents from every pot tax dollar collected — something he said Ottawa and Victoria could do “overnight.”
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“Cities are going to have the lion’s share of the extra expense, and we don’t think it would be fair if the costs of this whole initiative are downloaded to the cities,” Brodie said.
It’s an analysis shared by Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, who said the federal bill still has plenty of problems with it, and no one to pay for them.
“They say it’s coming, they say there’s money to assist, but it’s not here. Whether it’s here by October, that’s anybody’s guess,” she said.
She added that cities will be the ones tackling tricky — and expensive — issues like how to enforce regulations that say people can grow four plants at home.
“How do you know if there’s five plants, 10 plants, or a thousand plants? The province isn’t gonna police it, the feds aren’t going to police it, so the local government has to police it,” she said.
“So if you’re in a little town and you’ve got somebody growing 200 plants next door, who’s going to police that?”
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Brodie said he also has huge concerns about how police are expected to enforce impaired driving laws, calling the tools and techniques for the job inadequate.
“Impairment from a drug is equally bad to impairment from alcohol, but the usual test that they give is for alcohol, and it’s very well established,” Brodie said.
“Similar kinds of tests for driving under the influence of marijuana aren’t there. And we don’t know what standards to apply and we don’t know what the equipment is going to be either.”
It’s a concern that police say they’ve given plenty of thought to.
Delta police Chief Neil Dubord said the force is looking at starting training for drug-impaired driving as early as possible in officers’ careers.
“Certainly we would support going right in the academy and training right out of the police academy as someone becomes an officer, rather than doing as supplementary training as we are doing now.”
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But Const. Jason Doucette with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) said that while new tools and training may be on the way, officers will be able to enforce impaired driving laws from day one.
“We’ve been investigating drug impairment investigations on the road for years. We’ve got officers that are trained in field sobriety testing, we have drug recognition experts,” he said.
“We are going to continue using those tools we have at this point, and we are going to take advantage of whatever tools that we’re provided with that are court-approved.”
For its part, the federal government insists it will be prepared to crack down on drug-impaired drivers.
The Trudeau Liberals have introduced Bill C-36, which would broaden police powers and impose harsher penalties on impaired drivers. However, the bill has not yet passed, and the House of Commons is set to take its summer break on Friday.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued a statement Wednesday saying the province is now working “regulations and supporting policies” to implement its own marijuana legislation.
He said the province is also working on a provincial public awareness and education campaign “to ensure British Columbians have the information they need regarding legalization and our provincial regulations when they come into force.”