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'High time' for police to prepare for pot legalization

There's demand across Canada to get officers trained to recognize drug impairment
Addiction experts say Canada should learn from U.S. pot experience
With laws allowing the legalization of marijuana in Canada expected sometime this year, Greater Sudbury Police are trying to prepare for the impact on law enforcement. File photo.

With laws allowing the legalization of marijuana in Canada expected sometime this year, Greater Sudbury Police are trying to prepare for the impact on law enforcement.

Police Chief Paul Pedersen said Wednesday that currently, there are no drug recognition training courses available in Canada. That's a problem considering officers will be tasked with detecting drugged drivers.

"The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the chief of police of Sudbury all agree that one of the things we're going to need more of in this country as marijuana becomes legalized is what's called drug recognition experts," Pedersen said. 

"They are officers who are specifically trained to find drivers who are impaired by drugs. Right now, Sudbury has a very limited number of those officers. And right now in Canada, there isn't a drug recognition training program. We have to send our officers to the States to learn how to become drug recognition experts."

That training, as well as manuals and policies governing the detection of drug impaired drivers, will be important tools police will need soon, he said.

"We know, from coast to coast, we're going to need that in Canada in time before the legislation comes into effect," he said.

While there was speculation that legalization would happen early in 2017, the federal government now says that legislation will be introduced this year, but won't come into effect right away.

“The new legislation would come into force after being passed by Parliament and once regulations have been developed,” says a post on the federal justice ministry's web page. 

“These regulations would set out the details of a new system for access to cannabis. For example, they would define who could produce and distribute marijuana, standards for labeling and packaging, and important safeguards to restrict access to keep it out of the hands of children.”

For his part, Pedersen neither he or other police chiefs have been told when legalization will actually take place.

"I haven't received any formal update that gives me any more insight than the general public has from the newspapers."