On Oct. 17, recreational marijuana will be legalized. What will this mean for those who serve to protect the public? Police forces across Canada continue to roll out their pot policies.
The Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police has announced a ‘fit for duty’ approach, where marijuana would be treated similar to alcohol and prescription drugs while officers are on- or off-duty.
“Fit for duty meaning when you show up for work we expect you to be able to work, carry out your duties assigned,” Saskatoon Police Association president Dean Pringle said.
“It seems to be the best approach going forward because it is a legal substance similar to alcohol for personal consumption so fit for duty seems to be best, most pragmatic approach.”
Some police agencies have taken a more restrictive approach. At the Calgary Police Service, officers are completely prohibited to use cannabis in their down time.
Toronto Police Service members will be banned from using recreational marijuana within 28 days of reporting for duty. The decision didn’t come lightly said a spokesperson for the service, and it was based on sound advice and evidence.
Global News also learned that the RCMP will be taking the same 28-day stance for Mounties, banning members from using legal pot for nearly a month before any shift.
Officials said there are concerns over how long the effects of cannabis will last and what might happen if a Mountie involved in a shooting or accident tests positive for THC, the active component in cannabis which creates the feeling of being high.
“Traditionally, this has been something that has been illegal and now it will be legal in certain respects for personal consumption so it’s an adjustment for all the services, the associations and the members,” Pringle said.
What won’t change is what’s expected of officers while on the job here in Saskatchewan since it’s not a departure from present practices.
“That policy, the fit for duty approach, has been in the regulations since the early ’90s,” Saskatchewan Police Commission executive director Richard Peach explained.
“From an HR perspective, cannabis is the same issue that police services have always dealt with around alcohol.”
As for new police recruits in the province, the Saskatchewan Police College has already added both the federal and provincial legislation around cannabis into the curriculum.
Officials said not only has it been added, the new component is already being delivered to the class currently in training.