Pubdate: Thu, 17 May 2018
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Jonny Wakefield


Edmonton police will need about $1.4 million in ongoing and one-time
funding to prepare for marijuana legalization this summer, a report to
the police commission states.

Cannabis is set to become legal in Canada this summer and with it
comes higher policing costs, the Edmonton Police Commission heard Thursday.

Police officials outlined a laundry list of new technology and
training needed to enforce legal weed laws. Last month, the city
approved $1.4 million in one-time and ongoing funding to help the
police service deal with the impact of legal weed.

There are still many questions looming over legalization, chief among
them how police will test drivers for marijuana intoxication. Those
tests could cost the police service as much as $300,000 per year,
Supt. Al Murphy said.

"There's just no device that has been approved for use in Canada yet,"
said Murphy, a member of the police service's legalization of cannabis
committee. "I would expect that device will be some time in coming. It
may be that legalization happens and we don't have a device yet."

The new funding from the city will pay for oral fluid testing devices
to check for cannabis intoxication, training for specialized field
sobriety tests and drug recognition experts, as well as information
technology upgrades and new employees in the lead-up to the drug's

The federal Liberal government committed to legalizing recreational
cannabis use by this summer. While July has been bandied about as the
month cannabis would become legal, the Senate's Aboriginal Peoples
committee recently called on the government to delay the measure up to
a year to allow more time to consult Indigenous groups.

In an interview last year, police Chief Rod Knecht said he didn't
think the service would be ready to enforce the new laws by July,
citing ambiguity about roadside testing for marijuana intoxication.
Knecht said that ambiguity would likely further tie up the court system.

Police are currently able to test drivers for some types of drug
intoxication, Murphy said, and specially trained drug recognition
experts are also qualified to assess whether someone is driving under
the influence of drugs.

Murphy said new federal guidelines call for one-third of all
front-line officers to be trained in specialized field sobriety
testing by 2022. Major cities must also have six drug recognition
experts - who each receive three weeks of training.

"We can certainly get there with the resources we've asked for, and
the level of training we've ramped up to," Murphy said, but "it's very
resource-heavy. It takes some time."

He added that once a roadside test for cannabis intoxication is
approved, it will be another tool officers can use, but the tests will
be far more expensive than those for drunk drivers, which cost about
15 cents, Murphy said. Oral fluid testing devices could cost between
$75 and $100, he said.

Police use about 4,000 drunk-driving tests per year, Murphy said,
saying the annual price tag for oral fluid testing devices could be
around $300,000.

"We wanted to inform the City of Edmonton of the potential … high end
for costs so that everybody was properly informed of what that could
be, although it could be less," he said.

The $1.4 million approved by the city April 10 will also go to
increased Checkstop operations, a public communications plan,
equipment and training for the service's "clandestine laboratory team"
and the occupational health and safety team, and calibration of the
oral fluid testing devices.

The police service will present funding requests for the 2019-21
budget cycle to city council this fall, according to the presentation.
Murphy said exact dollar amounts have yet to be worked out.
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