Canadian Police Under Time Crunch For Drug Detection Training

Adult-use cannabis legalization is coming to Canada this summer, but the country’s police forces say they don’t have enough time to train officers to detect drug impairment.
Police Officers in Ottawa Will Be Permitted to Consume Cannabis Off-Duty
Jamie McCaffrey/ Wikimedia Commons

In Canada, adult-use cannabis legalization is right around the corner. And according to law enforcement officials and public safety analysts, the fast-approaching deadline means Canadian police are running out of time to train officers to detect drug-impaired drivers. With incidents of drug-related crashes on the rise in Canada, officials are concerned that cannabis legalization will worsen the problem. But they say they don’t have enough time to train officers.

Canadian Police Say They’re Not Ready For Marijuana Legalization

The Canadian government spends “tens of millions of dollars annually on police training across the country,” according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Those costs cover many types of training, including working with new equipment, but also include things like field sobriety training, drug detection times, and drug recognition.

Canadian law enforcement officers already receive basic field sobriety training. They know how to administer physical sobriety tests and use breathalyzers to detect alcohol intoxication. But to prepare Canadian police for cannabis legalization, the government has rolled out a new drug training curriculum to supplement the existing sobriety training and increase the number of officers who can serve as “drug recognition experts”.

Training officers in the new curriculum will be costly. “Millions of dollars and a lot of time,” according to Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis, “And they don’t have enough time by the time the marijuana legalization thing comes into effect.”

Beyond standard sobriety training, the new curriculum will give police new tools to detect drug-impaired drivers. Officers will learn how to look for drug impairment, especially the influence of cannabis. But officers will also learn which medical conditions can mimic impairment. Finally, the training will also educate officers about the new laws.

Canada Braces For Spike In Drug-Impaired Driving

According to the Canadian government, drug-impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. And drug-impaired driving is on the rise.

Furthermore, Public Safety Canada conducted a drug-impaired driving survey in 2017 that found 28 percent of cannabis users have operated a vehicle under the influence.

To combat drug-impaired driving, Sergeant David Caron with Guelph Police Traffic Services says the new training is necessary. But he acknowledges it’s costly and time-consuming.

Still, without more drug recognition experts, police forces will have to rely on a limited pool of qualified officers. “At the side of the road if the officer isn’t trained, then we have to call somebody to the scene,” Sgt. Caron told CTVNews.

Canadian Police Are Feeling the Pressure

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are currently experimenting with a roadside device that can test for drug impairment. The Canadian government has not approved it, so for now they will have to rely on training their officers. Or at least as many as they’re able to train by the time legalization hits.

“With the legislation coming into place quickly, we don’t have things in place to help officers deter and determine if someone is impaired by drugs right now,” said Sgt. Caron.

However, Canadian police forces may have more time than they think. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government issued a July 1, 2018 deadline for full implementation of adult-use cannabis. But the legislation has yet to pass the full Senate, which means the law could take effect later than July 1.

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