New Brunswick

Fredericton police expect pot legalization to cost 2% of budget

Police Chief Leanne Fitch estimates the legalization of marijuana will cost the Fredericton force two per cent of its budget in the first few years, then a little more than that.

Chief Leanne Fitch has looked at places such as Colorado to determine potential costs to force

Cannabis is expected be legalized this summer. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Police Chief Leanne Fitch estimates the legalization of marijuana will cost the Fredericton force two per cent of its budget in the first few years, and then a little more than that.

That would amount to $900,000 over the first three years, Fitch told the city's public safety and environment committee.

The numbers come from the force's internal research.The department also looked at the experience of other forces where the drug is legal, such as Colorado. 

Police Chief Leanne Fitch says the Fredericton force will need more training as it prepares for the change in the law. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The money would go to training, equipment and staffing, she said.

So far the city has three officers on staff who are trained as drug recognition experts and 22 who are trained in field sobriety testing.

The numbers are expected to climb, Fitch said, since the province has said it wants 50 per cent of all police officers in New Brunswick to be trained as drug recognition experts.

After the initial change, Fitch expects the legalization of cannabis to cost the force 2.4 per cent of its annual budget each year, with the money going toward capital and operating costs. 

Ken Forrest, the city's director of growth and community services, said the city will know more once details are released about how duties are going to be among the levels of government.

Three elements are involved in the enforcement picture, he said.

"There's production, so how the product is actually made, and then there's the retailing of the product, and then consumption of the product," said Forrest.

"So it's how in each of those specific aspects enforcement is decided out between the various levels of government."

Challenges

Fitch said there are still a lot of unknowns. For instance, the force still isn't sure how it will police edibles. 

It also doesn't have equipment to test sobriety yet. Equipment is being tested and isn't 100 per cent accurate. 

"It's going to be only one of many tools that police are going to be using to assess sobriety," she said.

"Our drug recognition experts are key to that, and the tests and the tools aren't fully developed."

Fitch said as legalization draws near, it will be important to educate the public, along with the force, about what's going to happen when the new legislation comes into effect.

The exact time of legalization hasn't been determined.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.

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