Marijuana legalization coming too fast to ensure 'public safety,' says head of Alberta police chiefs

Canada is moving too fast to legalize marijuana and there isn't enough time to have the proper legal and law-enforcement measures in place by the target date of July 2018, says the head of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.

Andy McGrogan calls on Albertans to resist federal government's 'aggressive timelines'

Medicine Hat Police Chief and president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police Andy McGrogan. (CBC )

Canada is moving too fast to legalize marijuana and there isn't enough time to have the proper legal and law-enforcement measures in place by the target date of July 2018, according to the head of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.

In an open letter sent to news organizations Thursday, Andy McGrogan says the federal government's "aggressive timelines" mean there is "insufficient time to prepare the necessary legislative framework and regulations to ensure the public safety of all Albertans."

McGrogan is chief of the Medicine Hat Police Service and head of the police chiefs association, which represents 15 law enforcement agencies, including the Edmonton Police Service and Calgary Police Service.

In his letter, he calls on Albertans to express their own concerns about the legalization timeline to the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

McGrogan says more measures are needed to prevent youth from accessing and consuming marijuana, in particular.

"The intent of legalizing cannabis products was not to normalize the consumption in the eyes of young people," he writes.

He also raises concerns about marijuana use while driving and how police will effectively enforce impaired driving laws.

"The science related to impairment due to cannabis use is unresolved, and the federal government has yet to approve instruments that would objectively measure roadside impairment," he writes.

Calgary police, by contrast, recently said proposed changes to Alberta's impaired driving laws in preparation for legalized recreational marijuana appear to be on the right track.

McGrogan also raised concerns surrounding how the government will ensure organized crime doesn't infiltrate the legal sale of marijuana and how youth will be prevented from purchasing the drug through online sales.

"The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police encourages the government to create a strongly regulated online distribution network that will eliminate such opportunities," he writes in the letter.

The provincial government announced details of its legal framework for legalized marijuana on Thursday afternoon.

The proposed legislation sets the minimum age of consumption at 18 and outlines plans for cannabis to sold at privately operated stores, while online sales would be handled by a Government of Alberta website.