Although police are ready for cannabis to be legalized Wednesday, detachments across the country will take a “day-by-day” approach, Canadian Association of Police Chiefs president Adam Palmer told reporters Monday.
“I’m here to tell Canadians that police are ready,” Palmer, who is Vancouver’s police chief, said.
“It’s important to remember that while the legal recreational use of cannabis will new to Canadians, enforcing laws around impaired driving and the illegal production, distribution and consumption of cannabis will not be new to police.”
Canada will become the second country, after Uruguay, to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17.
In B.C., pot will be sold at BC Liquor Distribution Branch operated stores, online and by private retailers.
Currently, only one bricks-and-mortar government store in Kamloops is set to open on Wednesday, and the province said that 62 of the 173 applications for private stores have been sent onto local governments for final approval.
Over 2/3 of Canadians support legalization, says @ChiefPalmer + cops are no different. "They have to understand what new laws of the country will be.. we've gone through extensive training" on how to enforce pot laws based on law, not on officer's personal views@BlackPressMedia— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) October 15, 2018
Palmer acknowledged that with 15 per cent of Canadians having used pot in the past three months, it will take time before users move away from the black market.
“Millions and millions of Canadians are smoking pot… almost all of them have gotten it from illegal sources,” said Palmer.
“When the law changes on [Oct.[ 17, you’re not going to see big changes overnight. We’ll change that balance where it’s not coming from an illicit supply, it’s coming from a legitimate supply.”
Palmer said that setting legal pot prices low enough to supplant illicit marijuana dealers will be key to shutting out a black market he says has funded organized crime across Canada for decades.
.@ChiefPalmer says that the @CACP_ACCP will support any policies that discourage people from turning to the black market for their pot.— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) October 15, 2018
Says that police will focus on keeping youth away from cannabis. @BlackPressMedia #cdnpoli
But despite the new laws, Palmer said that there were “no big raids or anything planned” for Oct. 17 and that enforcement of the country’s new pot laws will have to fit into an already busy police priority list.
“It’s good to have a clear direction… but in the scheme of things, marijuana is important but it is not the most important thing going on in the country,” Palmer said.
“Fentanyl kills a lot of people… marijuana doesn’t.”
Who will be enforcing the new laws
Things like smoking in prohibited places will likely fall to municipal bylaw officers, while large-scale imports, exports and production will fall to police detachments.
Closing down illegal pot shops will be a joint effort between the province and police, Palmer said.
"Every situation is quite different" in terms of pot law enforcement, @ChiefPalmer said. Things like smoking will likely be dealt with by bylaw, while high level imports/exports + production will be dealt with by police. @BlackPressMedia #cdnpoli #marijuananews— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) October 15, 2018
In B.C., Palmer said that pot will be treated more like alcohol than tobacco.
“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,” said Palmer.
“If somebody’s walking down the street smoking a cigarette, the police aren’t coming up to them and seeing if that tobacco is purchased at the 7-11 or they purchased it illegally from a tobacco trafficker.”
If people smoke in areas they aren’t allowed to, they won’t be arrested, Palmer noted.
“Nobody’s going to jail for something like that.”
Cracking down on drug-impaired driving
Instead, Palmer said, they’ll be relying on the standard field sobriety test that’s been used for years.
“It doesn’t fit the need for every agency,” said Palmer, noting it would be an “additional tool” for police.
More to come.