Pubdate: Fri, 21 Oct 2016
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Ray Spiteri
Page: A1


Jeff McGuire doesn't envy the position his former police chief
colleague Bill Blair is in.

Blair, who served as the Toronto Police chief from 2005 until his
retirement in 2015, is now the parliamentary secretary to the federal
Liberal justice minister, and is handling the government's pot
legalization file.

"I got a lot of respect for Bill Blair," said McGuire, who is chief of
the Niagara Regional Police. "It's a big job, it's a big move, it's
not simple, and it will be interesting to see how quickly they're able
to move forward on this."

McGuire said chiefs of police across Canada have long been against the
idea of decriminalizing or legalizing recreational marijuana.

Instead, they had lobbied for altered enforcement abilities, so that
weed possession wouldn't necessarily be a criminal offence, but "give
us the opportunity to issue a ticket, for instance, in relation to
small amounts of marijuana."

McGuire said it would be "reasonable" to expect levels of impairment
will increase once the federal government makes good on its pledge to
legalize marijuana's recreational use.

"There will be more people operating motor vehicles in an impaired
state, and right now … we don't have technology like we do with a
breath machine, for instance, for impaired by alcohol," he said.

McGuire said legalizing recreational marijuana will "certainly" make
the job of police officers more difficult.

But how much more difficult will depend on how the law is written, he

"We really don't have a clue how it's going to be written. Does it
mean that you can walk around downtown St. Catharines smoking pot on
the streets? Or is it more likely going to be that it can be used only
in the privacy of your own home?" McGuire said while not every
Canadian will start smoking pot once it becomes legal, it would be
"wrong to assume that there won't be more."

"I'm sure there's a lot of people that don't because it's illegal, but
if it becomes legal, they will. I think that increases the pool of
potential people who are impaired, not just driving - driving is the
primary concern - but just impaired in general. There will be more
people using an intoxicating chemical."

McGuire looks forward to having input as the federal government formed
a task force that will consult with countless stakeholders before
introducing legislation next spring that will legalize, regulate and
restrict access to recreational marijuana.

"I do fully believe that we will be consulted, and our concerns will
be at least listened to," he said.

McGuire said at this stage, there are a lot of "unknowns" with how the
legislation will unfold.

"There's an abundance of different methods of consuming marijuana, so
it's not just smoking," he said. "What are the rules going to say
about edible marijuana products, THC products? That's what's caused,
as I understand it, quite a lot of concern in the United States. You
end up with stores that have candy, jujubes, and brownies and things,
that it's hard to measure. Who's going to mandate that? Is that going
to be part of it, or is it just going to be smoking? We don't know. I
think they got a lot of work to do."

McGuire also said it's "logical to assume" there could be more
attempted break-ins at medical marijuana growing operations if there
is some transition into the recreational market, or if more operations
were to open.

"Certainly if there's more places … there could be (an increase in
break ins)," said McGuire. "Those are all governed by Health Canada at
this point. If they're completely legal, they have high methods of
security that they have to meet. But that's all dealt with by Health
Canada, that's not dealt with by the local police whatsoever, so
that's something else they're going to have to address."

Police have also said legal medical marijuana licences issued by
Health Canada are being used to mask illegal marijuana-growing operations.

During the past 13 months, the NRP's guns, gangs and grows unit have
executed three search warrants at a Lakeshore Road address in

Police arrested 18 people, and seized 4,015 marijuana plants worth
more than $4 million. All matters are before the courts, but
investigators believe the people are hiding criminal activities by
using legal medical marijuana licences to produce marijuana for sale
on the black market.

Police also believe that illegal marijuana-growing operations pose a
significant threat to the public and people operating them. Recently,
a licensed Port Colborne marijuana greenhouse operation was the site
of a violent home invasion robbery, in which firearms were used.
Police said that operation, too, was growing more marijuana than it
was licensed to grow.

Police said they do not believe that every medical marijuana licence
issued by Health Canada is being used for illegal purposes. The
majority are used for legitimate medical purposes, by law-abiding citizens.

McGuire said before the government makes any firm decisions on many
aspects of legalization, they should look "very strongly" at what
experts are saying about age limits, potential restrictions on the
level of THC in products, and impaired-driving issues.

"Something needs to be changed, obviously, with the rules in the
Criminal Code in regards to driving and the technology needs to be
adopted so that we can (conduct) a quick, simple, roadside test, which
we don't have the ability to do right now," said McGuire.

"They have to take a real, close look at what's happened in other
jurisdictions, I would hope, across North America. From the things
that I've heard, and I haven't looked at all the detailed research,
but it hasn't all been good, and it hasn't all gone the way they want."
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