Calgary police officers to be banned from consuming marijuana off duty

Calgary Police Service logo. File photo Global Calgary

Whether on or off duty, Calgary police officers won’t be able to use cannabis in their down time once it’s legalized next month.

The new policy was sent to Calgary Police Service members last week and stipulates that if officers are qualified to use a handgun and are available for duty, then they can’t use.

According to the Calgary police union president Les Kaminski, “the vast, vast majority of officers” fall under what he’s calling a “blanket policy.”

“It’s the path of least resistance,” Kaminski said Wednesday, adding he wasn’t surprised that’s the path the CPS took.

A CPS spokesperson said, “in the interest of officer and public safety, the service has taken an abstinence approach for marijuana use both on and off duty.”

“While this may be re-evaluated in the future, abstinence will be the policy for officers after legalization.”

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Kaminski said the policy was put in place without much consultation with the commission — one board member was on the committee that formed the guidelines.

An internal memo sent to all CPS personnel, obtained by Global News, outlines the policy and states that a thorough review of available scientific studies, as well as consultation with key stakeholders and both provincial and national benchmarking occurred before the policy changes.

“Studies show cannabis can affect short term memory, learning, coordination, multi-tasking, movement control and high cognitive function,” the internal memo reads. “The effects of cannabis on a person widely vary, cognitive impairment can be difficult to self-detect, and the maximum duration of cognitive impairment has not yet been established.”

LISTEN: Calgary Police Association president Les Kaminski joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the CPS policy prohibiting cannabis use

Under the regulations, a police officer shall not engage in “consumption or use of liquor or drugs in a manner that is prejudicial to duty” which includes not “reporting for duty, being on duty or standing by for duty while unfit to do so by reason of the use of alcohol or a drug.

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“As such, sworn members who are qualified to use firearms and are able to be operationally deployed, as well as sworn police recruits, are prohibited from using recreational cannabis on or off duty.”

The memo goes on to say that due to the unpredictable way cannabis may affect people, abstinence is highly recommended for any individual when there is potential risk to workplace safety.

Kaminski said the policy is in line with guidelines established by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but said he doesn’t think it will look the same in a year’s time.

Kaminski expects the policy will be met with challenges and the challenges will come soon.

“I’ve gotten phone calls from members saying, ‘I’m not going to use, but the service has no jurisdiction to tell me what I can and cannot do on my days off,'” he said.

Kaminski said when it comes to alcohol, the police force has a “fit for duty” approach, where officers can drink while off duty, but it has to be out of their system before reporting for work.

He added he doesn’t think the technology is advanced enough to accurately test for THC levels in the body or how long it might last.

“If a guy is coming onto five days off and says, ‘Instead of drinking, I’m going to smoke a marijuana cigarette,’ when he returned, he would be fit for duty, but he would test positive for marijuana,” Kaminski said.

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Kaminski said the CPS policy is stricter than the policy that will be enforced by the Canadian military, which has a more progressive approach allowing members to consume marijuana up to eight hours before duty, with certain exceptions.

Marijuana will be legalized in Canada on Oct. 17.

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