Edmonton

Legalizing pot plan sets off alarm with Edmonton police chief

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says his biggest concern with the federal government's plan to legalize marijuana is what happens when users get behind the wheel.

Rod Knecht questions how drivers impaired by pot will be detected

"I would just caution that we don’t want to put the cart before the horse here," Rod Knecht told CBC News. "We want to maintain everybody’s safety.” (CBC)

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says his biggest concern with the federal government's plan to legalize marijuana is what happens when users get behind the wheel.

While a breathalyzer can be used to detect impairment from alcohol, there is still no effective technology for detecting levels of pot usage, Knecht says.

"We don't have very good mechanisms right now that we can use on a broad scale to detect somebody being under the influence of marijuana," said Knecht in a year-end interview with CBC news.

"So do we want somebody out there who's highly impaired by marijuana? Absolutely not. I don't think anybody wants that."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a pledge to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use, and the government has said it will act on the promise.

In its campaign platform, the Liberal government said it plans to decriminalize marijuana use and possession, while creating stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while high or sell to minors or outside a regulatory framework.

"Do we need something similar to a breathalyzer or intoxilyzer so we know, OK this is what the level is of marijuana that you can ingest and still drive a vehicle safely? We're not there right now," said Knecht.

"So I would just caution that we don't want to put the cart before the horse here. We want to maintain everybody's safety."

Knecht said he is also concerned about the health risks of pot-smoking, pointing out as restrictions are increasingly placed on cigarette-smoking "now we're introducing something else into that dynamic."

He said legalizing marijuana will "absolutely" see a "big increase" and then it will probably level off.

"There's some people that just won't do certain things because it's illegal," Knecht said. "And so when you say something's legal,  they're saying the state, the system is saying that's OK.  

"So you will get people that will do it because it's now legal" who otherwise wouldn't do it, he added.

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