Police services struggle with cannabis consumption policies for officers

Even though it is a legal product on Oct. 17, marijuana impairment while on duty is a real concern for police services across the country.
Even though it is a legal product on Oct. 17, marijuana impairment while on duty is a real concern for police services across the country.

For police officers wishing to partake once cannabis becomes legal, they had better carefully review their individual service’s new policies.

Even though it is a legal product on Oct. 17, marijuana impairment while on duty is a real concern for police services across the country and each one of them seems to be handling things a little differently.

In Toronto, the police association seems to be gearing up for battle after the city’s police chief Mark Saunders released its official policythat prohibited officers from consuming within 28 days of duty. Effectively, that means zero tolerance for officers, considering most workers don’t take four full weeks of vacation at a time.

“If any of our members choose to use cannabis once it’s legalized, like any other legal substances that all Canadians can legally consume, the same fit-for-duty criteria should apply,” said Mike McCormack, Toronto Police Association (TPA) president in a statement.

The TPA said it will review the policy but it seems clear that the fight is on.

In Edmonton, police officers have been told they can’t consume cannabis at all. The same applies for Calgary police, according to a police service spokesperson. “Abstinence will be the policy for officers after legalization.”

For RCMP, the 28-day policy has also been adopted for its officers.

However, the president of the Canadian Police Association didn’t hold back about his views on the RCMP policy.

“Beyond ridiculous; has nothing to do with protecting members or public. If that was concern RCMP would create similar prohibition 4 excessively long extended shifts, consecutive work days, overtime and on call. Effects of fatigue on cognitive impairment are well established,” said Tom Stamatakis on Twitter in response to a Global News reporter’s tweet about the RCMP policy announcement.

Moving west, Vancouver police’s new policy was more liberal and considering its Canada’s pot capital, it’s not a big surprise.

“Following the recommendations of an internal report, members of the VPD (Vancouver Police Department), sworn and civilian, will be able to consume cannabis while off-duty, however they are required to show up fit for work or, in layman’s terms, not high,” according to the Straight Cannabis news web site.

This policy aligns with the Montreal policy, which also places no prohibitions on consumption while off-duty.

“It’s the same for anything else. It’s what we call the ‘fit-for-duty’ (principle). Whether it’s under the influence of cannabis, alcohol or medication,” said Andre Durocher police spokesperson.

And while a lot of big-city forces seem to have their rules in place for cannabis consumption, some smaller centres are still working on theirs. In North Bay, Ont., police chief Shawn Devine will hold talks with the union after receiving a briefing document from the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We’re looking at that document right now and we would like to have a conversation with our association to see how that is going to roll out with regard to standing operating procedures within our own organization,” said Devine to the North Bay Nugget.

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