Pubdate: Wed, 13 Sep 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Marie-Danielle Smith
Page: A5


Market needs legal structure, official says

OTTAWA - Police are warning it could be "impossible" for law
enforcement to get trained up in time for legal marijuana in July 2018.

Testifying at a House of Commons health committee Tuesday, police
leaders expressed concerns about the Liberal government's impending
deadline to create a legal weed market. Organizations will need to
know the new laws and regulations backwards and forwards before they
can prepare their officers for duty, they said.

Mike Serr, deputy chief constable and chair of the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police drug advisory committee, said the
government should consider extending its deadline. "We ask that
established legislative framework be put in place prior to
legalization that will provide law enforcement with clear direction
and assistance regarding funding and training," he said.

The deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police for
investigation and organized crime, Rick Barnum, explained at least six
or seven months of lead time would be necessary to ensure police
forces are adequately prepared. For example, if a legal framework
isn't in place until July of next year, "it's impossible" for officers
to be ready by August, Barnum said.

Noted Thomas Carrique, deputy chief of the association, the
repercussions of opening a legal market before police are ready would
inevitably extend beyond the correctional system. Poor decisions by
officers, based on inadequate or rushed training, could trickle into
the courts system and result in "bad case law" being established under
the new rules, Carrique said.

Police are looking for other specific amendments to the government's
Bill C-45, which sets a framework around legalizing cannabis.

Barnum said the OPP oppose the federal approach of allowing four
cannabis plants per residence. He said Health Canada's estimates on
the yield and heights of average plants are low, and painted a picture
of city apartment buildings essentially turning into massive grow ops.

"If we consider a 200-unit housing complex in any urban or suburban
centre where half the units cultivate four marijuana plants or more,
we can estimate anywhere from 400 to 600 plants being grown in one
building throughout the year without proper ventilation, adequate
electrical capacity and in close proximity to children. This scenario
severely jeopardizes public safety," he said. Six or seven months of
lead time are needed to ensure Canadian police services are prepared
to handle pot legalization, a House of Commons committee heard Tuesday.

Barnum added he's worried about more break-andenter offences, with
people wanting to steal the drug from people's houses. This all
"cannot be adequately managed within existing resource allocations,"
he said.

Police unanimously expressed concerns about organized crime retaining
a foothold in a legal market, and proposed licensed producers should
be limited. With crime groups already "deeply involved" in the medical
marijuana system, as Barnum put it, Serr said the existing structure
for medical weed should be dissolved and the entire legal market
streamlined into one strict system.

"Despite the Cannabis Act, organized crime will continue to look for
opportunities to exploit the market," Serr warned.

The Liberals' cannabis act is being debated in health committee all
day, every day this week before parliamentarians return to the Hill

Committee study will culminate in a clause-by-clause review during
which MPs can propose amendments, but with a Liberal majority on the
committee, this will depend on the government's willingness to adjust
its proposal. Amendments could also be possible in the Senate.

Police leaders are expected to testify separately on Bill C-46, the
government's answer to concerns about drug-impaired driving, in
justice committee hearings. sad about what's happened," he said. "I'm
very sad about the whole backcountry. Nothing we can do, though."
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