Is B.C. ready for legal weed? Vancouver police chief says yes for enforcement, drug-impaired driving
“I’m here to tell Canadians that the police are ready.”
That’s the message Vancouver police Chief Const. Adam Palmer, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) has for the public once cannabis is legal in B.C. and across Canada on Oct. 17.
“It’s important to remember that while the legal, recreational use of cannabis will be new for Canadians come Wednesday, enforcing laws around impaired driving and the illegal production, distribution and consumption of cannabis will not be new to police,” Palmer said.
“We’ve been dealing with drug-impaired driving for many, many decades in Canada.”
WATCH: Vancouver police said Monday that its methods for stopping impaired driving would not change once marijuana is legal, and that impaired driving “blitzes” around holidays would continue.
Palmer said applying the new laws and regulations will be an ongoing process and will be a combination of municipal, provincial and federal agencies. Public consumption is likely to be addressed by local bylaw officers, while impaired driving will be addressed by local or provincial police agencies.
“It’s important for the public to be aware that different infractions may involve different agencies and different response times,” Palmer said.
“At present, there are more than 13,000 police officers trained in Canada in standard field sobriety testing and we are expecting this number to rise to 20,000 over the next several years.”
WATCH: B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, talks about pot dispensaries that will be operating in B.C. illegally come Oct. 18.
When it comes to illegal grow-ops, those will continue to be illegal after Oct. 17, Palmer said.
But when it comes to cannabis dispensaries or stores, now the law will actually become clear when it comes to those businesses operating, Palmer said. “But the province is going to take the lead on that.”
He does not expect to see a big crackdown on those stores operating after Oct. 17 and there will be some time for those stores to get their licence if they want to apply for one and then any enforcement will take place from there.
“There’s no big raids or anything like that planned right now,” Palmer said.
Palmer adds the CACP supports all efforts to deter and reduce criminal activity for those breaking the law around illegal cannabis after Oct. 17 and for those who provide cannabis to youth.
WATCH: On Monday, Vancouver police said the government would have to be priced cannabis competitively to stop people from purchasing the drug illegally.
The enforcement of the new cannabis laws is not the only public safety issue for police agencies in Canada, Palmer said.
“Different areas in the country will have different priorities.”
“In this province, it will be more similar to tobacco than alcohol, because you can’t walk down the street and drink a bottle of beer but you will be able to walk down the street and smoke marijuana in this province. And some provinces are like that, others are more strict on public consumption, so it varies, but it’s going to be very similar to tobacco.”
WATCH: Vancouver police said Monday that people would be able to smoke marijuana in public in British Columbia, adding that it would be “no different” than smoking tobacco in public.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has already said it does not expect the world to change overnight when marijuana is legalized.
Palmer said the VPD won’t be using the federally approved Drager DrugTest 5000 as a screening device.
“It’s not something that we’re going to be deploying here in Vancouver,” he said.
The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is looking to acquire the Draeger 5000 being made available by the provincial government to assess its operational value. But Sgt. Judy Bird says the force won’t be ready for roadside screening on Oct. 17.
WATCH: Vancouver police chief says public can expect ‘measured approach’
She says the APD wants to assess its operational value.
Vancouver and Delta are not buying the device, while the municipal police departments in Port Moody, New Westminster, and West Vancouver all say they are taking a wait-and-see approach.
READ MORE: Full coverage: Cannabis IQ
The minimum age to buy cannabis in B.C. from Oct. 17 onwards will be 19.
There will be one government-run legal store, in Kamloops, on Oct. 17.
B.C. will eventually have a mix of public- and private-sector retail stores.
Residents will also be able to buy cannabis online on a government-run site.
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