Pubdate: Fri, 26 Jan 2018
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Black Press
Author: Gary Poignant


Nelson's top cop is preparing for the legalization of recreational

The woman waiting in the reception area of the Nelson Police
Department spots Chief Constable Paul Burkart and calls his name.

"Hi Paul," she says.

The chief smiles and leans out through the open door, asking, "What
can I get for you?"

The woman tells him she needs some volunteer security clearance forms.
Burkart speaks to an officer in the front dispatch area and asks him
to assist the visitor.

This took all of about one minute, but the exchange is a microcosm of
the job Burkart faces everyday.

As the top officer on an 18-member city-owned force he has to wear
many hats.

"We do it all. We are Jacks of all trades. We have to be, " said

"Every officer, even the chief can end up going on any call. You have
to be available." And looking ahead to the rest of 2018, Burkart has
to be ready for every challenge his department faces.

It's safe to say drugs - hard and soft - will be on that

While the fentanyl opiod crisis is the dark cloud that worries him,
Burkart is preparing for the changing marijuana landscape.

Recreational marijuana is on track to be legalized in Canada by July
of this year. In a town with six medical marijuana dispensaries that
have appeared in the past two years, it isn't easy to predict how the
issue will play out in Nelson.

"We are concerned when recreational marijuana does become legal
because we want to see how it will be sold and to see if we will
receive any additional money to offset the additional enforcement
costs," said Burkart.

While five of the ten Canadian provinces have released details on how
marijuana will be sold, B.C. is still working on a regulatory
framework for sales.

The province has announced the minimum age will be 19 and the
wholesale distribution of recreational marijuana will be handled by
the government's Liquor Distribution Branch. Although the province
indicated plans for a mix of private and public retail stores, it did
not say whether or not liquor stores would be included.

Burkart doesn't expect to see a big increase in the number of
marijuana users in the Nelson area - a city known for decades as
Canada's pot capital.

"I don't think we'll see a 50 percent increase once it's legalized,
but I do know we have to be ready," said Burkart.

"We are taking the appropriate steps for when recreational marijuana
is legalized," adding that three Nelson police officers already have
Drug Recognition Expert status. By July, he hopes to have six more
officers trained in DRE, which teaches an officer to identify
motorists whose driving is impaired by drugs.

Nelson council has placed a moratorium on recreational marijuana
dispensaries as the city prepares to develop regulations related to
the sales, public consumption and personal cultivation of recreational
marijuana. The city is collecting public feedback between now and
April and plans to have municipal cannabis regulations in place by the

Burkart said police have been monitoring the six marijuana
dispensaries in Nelson and he said officers found no evidence of
illegal sales.

"We do check regularly, but everything has been legal," he

Burkart said he is concerned about how young people will react once
marijuana is legalized, adding the department's DARE program will play
an even more important role.

While two Nelson officers are instructors with the Drug Abuse
Resistance Education program in Nelson schools, it appears a third
police officer involved in DARE - an RCMP member - is going to be 

The chief says the benefits of the program are vital.

"We see it as an important program for delivering the message about
choice regarding drug and alcohol use and other risky behaviour," said

"It really has a great secondary effect of having our members out in
the community interacting with our youth, building a rapport."

While marijuana will create many challenges in 2018, Burkart is no
less concerned about fentanyl.

There were at least 10 fentanyl deaths in the Kootenay Boundary region
last year, up from just four in 2016.

Although there haven't been any reported deaths locally this year,
opioids are still a problem.

"It's a concern for me. Only bad things happen with fentanyl," said
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt