A discussion paper released by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police urges the federal government to go slow with plans for marijuana legalization.
"Begin with caution. Allow all stakeholders - public, health, law enforcement, governments, regulators, etc. - to adjust and allow the science to catch up to support evidence-based decision-making," the Chiefs urged.
The federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation submitted its report with 86 recommendations to the government in November.
The CACP highlights about 20 key areas of support for those recommendations, including the limit of 30 grams for personal possession.
The Chiefs caution the federal government to take a 'start small' approach with a willingness to re-evaluate later.
The CACP also advises the government hold off on ‘home grows” citing personal cultivation as a key area of concern.
"The CACP has long been against in-home production," the paper states. "This is not to say our opinion could not change therefore we would recommend that it be reviewed at a later date as we all gain experience with a legalized system."
Among the Chiefs' concerns about home grown pot:
-Law enforcement's ability to enforce personal cultivation is very limited and diversion to black markets remains a concern.
-Creates much greater demand on law enforcement resources to enforce over-production and diversion.
-First responders have long seen the negative effects of home production. It is in all of our interests to ensure a safe product, with known THC levels, free from pesticides, mold, etc.
-Counter to the stated objective of ensuring a highly regulated and controlled system as put forward by the federal government.
-Contrary to other measures to minimize child/youth exposure and access to cannabis products.
-Electrical and fire hazards pose a risk to first responders and nearby dwellings.
Another big concern highlighed by the Chiefs is drug-impaired driving which the leaders note is already an issue today.
"It will become an even greater issue with legalization. Drugs and driving don't mix! We must change current perceptions and attitudes towards drug-impaired driving. The CACP encourages governments to immediately focus on education, awareness and public safety. Start now!" the paper stated.
"We are very concerned that the prevalence of driving under the influence of drugs is not on Canadians' consciousness," the Chiefs write.
The police leaders also note a lack of science and evidence-based determinants of impairment.
"The strongest evidence to determine impairment can only be provided through the evaluation of a highly trained and qualified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)."
But this field certification is only offered in the United States and 'high costs are incurred by police services to train DRE’s' and the Chiefs maintain the number of DRE’s in Canada is insufficient to provide proper coverage.
"The CACP strongly recommends that governments increase investment in Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s) and associated officer training to improve law enforcement's ability to detect and remove drug-impaired drivers from our streets," the discussion paper said.
"The CACP also recommends that training and accreditation take place here in Canada to reflect our own standards/models, reduce overall costs and ensure availability of training to Canadian officers."
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police represents about 1,000 police leaders across Canada.