Brockville Funds for cannabis training Police

New provincial funding to help police officers detect impaired drivers is a good start, but Brockville’s chief of police says they are still being left with too many unanswered questions.

The province announced Friday it is “stepping up support for municipalities and law enforcement to help ensure communities and roads are safe in advance of the federal government’s legalization of cannabis.”

This will be done, they said, by providing $40 million of its revenue from the federal duty on recreational cannabis over two years to help all municipalities with implementation costs related to the legalization of cannabis.

A portion of the funding will go toward “increasing the capacity of local law enforcement by funding sobriety field test training for police officers to help detect impaired drivers” -an issue that Brockville’s chief of police Scott Fraser has warned about for years.

Funding will be distributed to municipalities on a per household basis, adjusted to ensure that each municipal government receives no less than $10,000.

However Fraser says while the money is a good start, it doesn’t come close to what they will actually need.

“At the end of the day, any funding that can be provided is obviously a relief for the (Brockville) taxpayer,” Fraser said.

“But when you start to look into it, $40 million is not going far.”

Since the funding was just introduced, he said he has not been briefed on how much they will receive specifically in Brockville and what the money will go toward.

They only have one trained drug recognition officer in Brockville, and training new officers in detecting if someone is impaired by cannabis is no easy feat. They’re sent on a two-week course in Ottawa then have to participate in another course in either Vancouver, Arizona or Florida – and the police have to absorb the cost themselves.

Fraser said they not only have to pay for the training and travel, they have to pay overtime to replace the officers who are away on training.

“We still have to police the town.”

The statistics for cannabis possession and trafficking in Brockville have remained relatively consistent throughout the years: In 2014, there were 59 possession and six trafficking charges; in 2015 there were 58 possession and three trafficking charges; and in 2016 there were 58 possession and six trafficking charges.

While these charges may drop off with legalization, there will still be issues of who will enforce age limits (a provincial legal age limit of 19 years old was set), home cultivation (a limit of four plants), and personal possession (30 grams or less).

Fraser also questioned the fact the government has yet to determine what will actually constitute impairment, and how they will go about measuring that. And if there is eventually a way to accurately measure drug impairment with a cannabis ‘breathalyzer’-a piece of equipment that will no doubt come with a hefty price tag – who will shoulder the cost, he questioned.

“These are the types of questions we keep asking, but we’re not getting any answers,” he said.

“It’s almost the philosophy of putting the cart before the horse. Let’s get our ducks in a row, and then legalize it. It doesn’t make any sense (to legalize it first). It defies all logic, actually.”

The provincial funding will also be used to create a specialized legal team to “support drug-impaired driving prosecutions,” increase capacity at the province’s Centre of Forensic Sciences to support toxicological testing and expert testimony, develop a program to divert youth involved in minor cannabisrelated offences away from the criminal justice system, and create a task force to shut down illegal storefronts.

Marijuana legalization was one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main campaign promises during his federal election campaign in 2015, and now through the Cannabis Act, the government hopes to have it legalized by later this year.

Fraser maintains the idea there are too many unanswered questions at this point to warrant legalization, and while whatever funding they receive is welcomed to detect drug-impaired driving, it doesn’t even get into training officers to deal with interpreting the intricacies of the law itself.


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