Pubdate: Sat, 10 Mar 2018
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Recorder and Times
Author: Sabrina Bedford
Page: A1


New provincial funding to help police officers detect impaired drivers
is a good start, but Brockville's chief of police says they are still
being left with too many unanswered questions.

The province announced Friday it is "stepping up support for
municipalities and law enforcement to help ensure communities and
roads are safe in advance of the federal government's legalization of

This will be done, they said, by providing $40 million of its revenue
from the federal duty on recreational cannabis over two years to help
all municipalities with implementation costs related to the
legalization of cannabis.

A portion of the funding will go toward "increasing the capacity of
local law enforcement by funding sobriety field test training for
police officers to help detect impaired drivers" - an issue that
Brockville's chief of police Scott Fraser has warned about for years.

Funding will be distributed to municipalities on a per household
basis, adjusted to ensure that each municipal government receives no
less than $10,000.

However Fraser says while the money is a good start, it doesn't come
close to what they will actually need.

"At the end of the day, any funding that can be provided is obviously
a relief for the (Brockville) taxpayer," Fraser said.

"But when you start to look into it, $40 million is not going

Since the funding was just introduced, he said he has not been briefed
on how much they will receive specifically in Brockville and what the
money will go toward.

They only have one trained drug recognition officer in Brockville, and
training new officers in detecting if someone is impaired by cannabis
is no easy feat. They're sent on a two week course in Ottawa then have
to participate in another course in either Vancouver, Arizona or
Florida - and the police have to absorb the cost themselves.

Fraser said they not only have to pay for the training and travel,
they have to pay overtime to replace the officers who are away on training.

"We still have to police the town."

The statistics for cannabis possession and trafficking in Brockville
have remained relatively consistent throughout the years: In 2014,
there were 59 possession and six trafficking charges; in 2015 there
were 58 possession and three trafficking charges; and in 2016 there
were 58 possession and six trafficking charges. While these charges
may drop off with legalization, there will still be issues of who will
enforce age limits (a provincial legal age limit of 19 years old was
set), home cultivation (a limit of four plants), and personal
possession (30 grams or less).

Fraser also questioned the fact the government has yet to determine
what will actually constitute impairment, and how they will go about
measuring that. And if there is eventually a way to accurately measure
drug impairment with a cannabis 'breathalyzer' - a piece of equipment
that will no doubt come with a hefty price tag - who will shoulder the
cost, he questioned.

"These are the types of questions we keep asking, but we're not
getting any answers," he said.

"It's almost the philosophy of putting the cart before the horse.
Let's get our ducks in a row, and then legalize it. It doesn't make
any sense (to legalize it first). It defies all logic, actually."

The provincial funding will also be used to create a specialized legal
team to "support drug-impaired driving prosecutions," increase
capacity at the province's Centre of Forensic Sciences to support
toxicological testing and expert testimony, develop a program to
divert youth involved in minor cannabis-related offences away from the
criminal justice system, and create a task force to shut down illegal

Marijuana legalization was one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's main
campaign promises during his federal election campaign in 2015, and
now through the Cannabis Act, the government hopes to have it
legalized by later this year.

Fraser maintains the idea there are too many unanswered questions at
this point to warrant legalization, and while whatever funding they
receive is welcomed to detect drug-impaired driving, it doesn't even
get into training officers to deal with interpreting the intricacies
of the law itself.

"All we can do is work with what we've been given, and we'll do our
best to ensure the safety of everybody in our community. That's our
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