British Columbia

Is B.C. ready for pot legalization? Victoria mayor says yes; police chief has questions

Recreational marijuana in Canada will be legal by October and officials in British Columbia are split on what’s left to be done before then.

Drivers who smoke marijuana will be the biggest problem, says Delta's top cop

Buying marijuana will be legal across the country this fall, but some officials still have unanswered questions about how that will play out. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Recreational marijuana in Canada will be legal by October and officials in British Columbia are split on what's left to be done before then.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says the province's capital is completely ready for the impending legalization because of the city's previous work on zoning and licensing cannabis dispensaries.

"Our ducks have been in order for two years," Helps said. "We are ready to go, there is nothing that needs to happen except that the provincial government needs to get its regime in place."

She says that legalization is the "moment we've been waiting for as a city" because it means enforcement of licensing for dispensaries will be passed from the city to provincial jurisdiction.

"We were heavily criticized in some circles for getting ahead of this," Helps told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On the Island.

"But, from my point of view, there will be a lot of people across the country scrambling, a lot of mayors and councils scrambling, and we've already done the work we needed to do."

Law enforcement post-legalization

Others on the law enforcement side are concerned that, although bill C-45 has passed in Parliament, there are still unanswered questions about what legalization will look like in practice.

"As we have been preparing for legalization of marijuana over the last year or so, there are some roadblocks still we need to overcome as police agencies to ensure that this goes successfully," said Delta police chief Neil Dubord.

In particular, he said, impaired driving and marijuana use will be a challenge.

"We need to come up with a proper roadside screening device," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"The ability for us to be able to take a roadside sample is difficult at this time because there is no device and no per se limit."

Right now, either a saliva, urine or blood sample is needed to test for drug use.

Unlike drinking and driving laws, which prohibit blood-alcohol content over 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.08, there are no guidelines for how much marijuana — if any — will be allowed before getting behind the wheel.

Dubord says there are also questions around limits of consumption for certain professions, like police officers and pilots, that will need to be addressed in internal policies as well as training about the new laws.  

"We need to ensure that our officers are well prepared to be able to deal with the questions and concerns that they'll have come October," he said.

With files from On The Island and The Early Edition.

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