Pubdate: Tue, 14 Nov 2017
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 Cape Breton Post
Author: David Jala
Page: A6


Police chief warns CBRM to plan ahead for marijuana

Once the federal government legalizes cannabis, it may or may not be
OK to smoke marijuana while walking down the street.

According to Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac, it is
far too soon to predict exactly how the new regulations will affect
the consumption, availability, distribution and enforcement of
cannabis products and their use here in Cape Breton.

"There are still so many unanswered questions, but like it or not,
agree with it or not, cannabis is coming and we need to prepare for it
as a municipality," McIsaac said during a recent address to Cape
Breton Regional Municipality councillors at city hall.

"We are in a wait and see mode while the Nova Scotia government
develops its provincial framework.

With the Trudeau government planning to legalize pot as early as July
2018, debate continues to rage across the country on how best to deal
with a multitude of cannabis-related issues such as public health and
safety, responsible use, protection of children and youth,
distribution and enforcement.

And McIsaac advised council to start working on those issues as soon
as possible.

"Once the province sets the direction for these areas, municipalities
will then be responsible for executing, managing and enforcing them,
so these are things you need to start wrapping your head around in
terms of some of the work that is coming our way," he said.

While the proposed legislation restricts marijuana consumption to
people over 18, it does allow the provinces and territories to raise
the minimum age (Ontario has set the age at 19, while Alberta has gone
with 18), to lower possession limits (it will be legal to possess up
to 30 grams of weed), and lower the number of plants per household
(new rules to allow four, less than 100 cm tall plants per household).

McIsaac also told council that there is a fine line between protecting
the public and eradicating the criminal element that has traditionally
supplied society with illegal drugs.

"We need to find a balance between minimizing health risk for young
people while at the same time eliminating the illegal market - if the
age is too restrictive, the illegal market will fill the gap and
that's not what we want," said the police chief.

"This new legislation will regulate the system under the legal
guidelines to keep it out of the hands of the wrong people, especially
youth - a regulated system will control the quality of the product,
free of contaminants like fungus and fertilizer, for the health and
safety of citizens."

During his hour-long presentation to council, McIsaac also said law
enforcement agencies are hopeful the new laws will ease some of the
burdens on the justice system.

"With things like seizure, exhibits, testing, Crown preparation and
court process, it takes months to prosecute what amounts to a $100
fine in the court compared to the five minutes it takes to write a
ticket for having an open bottle of beer on the street which carries a
fine of three or four times that much," he said.

While McIsaac admitted that he's not pleased with the idea of having
marijuana plants growing in CBRM homes, he appeared more than pleased
with some of the proposed enforcement measures. And, he said that's
extremely important given that police organizations across Canada have
indicated they expect to see an increase in impaired driving once
marijuana is legalized.

"As we have seen and heard from the experiences in Colorado and
Washington states, we can expect a significant increase in the number
of impaired driving offences that we must be prepared for and be
equipped to handle," said McIsaac, who added that the proposed new
drug impaired driving offences, roadside oral screening devices and
tougher fines will have huge impact for law enforcement.

"Police will be authorized to demand that a driver provide an oral
fluid sample if they reasonably suspect that a driver has drugs in
their body."

And, under the new legislation, police will no longer need suspicion
that a driver has alcohol in their body in order to demand a breath
sample at a roadside stop.

Fines for drunk driving are also set to increase from the current
mandatory minimum penalty of $1,000 for a first time impaired driving
offence up to $2,000 with the fine to be dictated by blood alcohol

The police chief also offered comment on how the new legislation will
affect his department.

"From a policing perspective I have no doubt that our workload will
increase exponentially in response, not only in volume, but in
complexity and time," said McIsaac. "There is new equipment to be
purchased, significant training needs to be met, including the demand
for more drug recognition officers, who can only be certified in the
U.S. through a very lengthy and costly process."

Prior to his presentation to the CBRM council, McIsaac and other Nova
Scotia police chiefs had their latest consultation meeting with the
province in late October. And he said the police want a provincial
Cannabis Act, stand-alone stores and a no smoking policy for public
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