Pubdate: Tue, 26 Dec 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Jonny Wakefield
Page: A3


Legalizing marijuana will tie up police resources and risks clogging
the court system, Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says in a blunt
assessment of Canada's plan to legalize the drug by next summer.

"I don't think we're going to be ready," Knecht said during a yearend
interview at Edmonton Police Service headquarters. "There's a lot of
work that's got to be done in the next few months."

Legalization is one of the biggest issues facing police services
across the country next year. Police chiefs including Knecht have
warned that the timelines are too tight and there are too many
outstanding issues, including ambiguity around roadside tests for

The federal government has left details such as where marijuana will
be sold to the provinces. It also proposes stiff penalties for people
who operate outside of the regulated system, including a proposed
14-year maximum sentence for selling cannabis to youth.

Knecht disputes claims legalization means police will no longer lay
possession charges.

"I've heard some people argue, 'Well, you're not going to be laying
possession charges anymore,'" he said. "I think we're going to still
be doing (that), only it's become a little more complex."

The law will allow possession of certain amounts of marijuana for
personal use.

"If you're over that amount, then it's an offence," Knecht said. "So
nothing's really changed for the police other than you've sort of
layered on more work, and the complexity of it. And there's going to
be a lot of ambiguity at first."

Among his biggest concerns is the lack of an effective test for
drug-impaired driving, which lacks a "clear measurable" such as blood
alcohol content.

"What are we, five months away?" he said. "And we sit here and say 'We
don't have a test.' We, the Edmonton Police Service, we don't have a
box of tests we can give to our people that are going to go out on the
road ... That's going to be a challenge for us.

"I'm going to suggest we're going to plug up the courts significantly.
I think a lot of people are going to plead not guilty. I think it's
going to create a lot of work for lawyers, I think it's going to
create a lot of business for the courts."

He added it's unlikely the black market will go away, and suggested
illegal sellers will lower their prices or up their product's THC
content to compete with the legal market.

The federal government plans to legalize cannabis next summer. July 1
has been floated as the date to change the drug's status, but Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to soften that deadline earlier this
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