Lethbridge city officials and police continue to prepare for legalization of cannabis
In less than a month, Bill C-45 will allow the legal use of cannabis across Canada. In Lethbridge, the city has made the decision to not introduce any bylaws prohibiting public use of marijuana, at least for now.
“A number of other jurisdictions have put in all sorts of variable requirements around public consumption, but in large measure, I think a lot of them are actually playing a guessing game right now,” City of Lethbridge director of planning and development Jeff Greene told Global News.
Greene says the city is waiting to see if the provincial government will make any legislative changes after Oct. 17. The laws surrounding the smoking of cannabis in Lethbridge will mirror tobacco legislation. Its use will also be limited by the Alberta Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis that limits smoking and vaping in locations such as playgrounds, sports fields, hospitals and schools.
Other municipalities like Calgary, Okotoks and Red Deer are taking a different approach, already introducing new bylaws to ban the public consumption of cannabis.
WATCH: Cannabis legalization will provide tools to reduce unsafe behaviour says Trudeau
As for driving enforcement surrounding marijuana, that falls on police. But according to Lethbridge Police Traffic Response Unit Sgt. Wade Davidson, oral saliva screening tools are not yet in their arsenal.
“Right now, to my knowledge in Alberta, certainly none of the police departments are utilizing those yet,” Davidson said. “Training for that isn’t even available until the middle of October for the train the trainer program. The procurement process hasn’t even been decided on by the federal government, so we don’t have those tools coming up to the legalization date.”
When Oct. 17 hits, Davidson says LPS will be relying on old-school policing tactics, like field sobriety tests. But the costs associated with the likely blood tests that come afterwards could create major financial challenges.
“These investigations are not going to be cheap,” Davidson said. “Having a medical professional come in to take blood costs money, having the blood analyzed in a timely fashion costs money. It has to be sorted out — who’s going to pay those bills? The cost is absolutely a concern and is going to be a concern for every police service in the province.”
The police service hopes money to cover those costs will come from government funding.
WATCH: Edmonton settles on 10-metre buffer zone for smoking, cannabis use around entrances
Davidson is not sure how marijuana impaired-driving charges will be decided in the legal system.
“The criminal prosecution is going to be more difficult and more costly. It’s going to be very interesting to see over the next few years how some of these things play out in court, because of the science,” Davidson said.
“We know Bill-C46, the majority of which comes into effect in December, there’s a lot of changes coming up there and it’s all related to driving and criminal driving offences. We’re going to forge ahead with those and give the Crown prosecutor the best possible product we can, but we still don’t know how the courts are going to interpret those.”
With Canada poised to make a historic step in the legalization of marijuana, the Lethbridge Police Services is preparing for the unknown.
“Right now, it’s impossible for a police service to predict what percentage of your community is suddenly going to use [marijuana] because it’s legal that hasn’t already been using for years. We don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Davidson said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this year that cannabis will be legal as of Oct. 17.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.