Ottawa police remain in dark as pot legalization looms
Cost, equipment and training still up in the air, police board hears
Ottawa police still have no clear idea what the legalization of cannabis will cost, what kind of equipment they will need or even what kind of training will be available when Canada green lights the drug this summer.
Initial estimates peg the cost at $6.2 million for the first year of legalization, but that number is based on very little information, the police services board heard Monday.
"I cannot highlight enough that we do not know the true costs of cannabis legalization," Deputy Chief Jill Skinner told the board.
I cannot highlight enough that we do not know the true costs of cannabis legalization,- Deputy Chief Jill Skinner
Until the provincial and federal governments decide on some key details there are too many unknowns to find out what it will cost municipal taxpayers when people are allowed to buy and grow marijuana legally, she said.
For example, police may have to build a greenhouse and keep confiscated plants alive until an accused has made their way through the court system in case they are found not guilty. The other option would be to sell the plants or let them die and then pay the accused person for their value if they're acquitted.
Impaired driving biggest concern
Even more basic questions about how officers will be able to tell if people are driving high are still unanswered. The advanced training officers need to identify drug users is only available to two officers a year at a course given in Florida.
The other key to curbing impaired driving, a saliva test, still hasn't been approved approved by Health Canada, leaving a question mark in the police budget for the cost of testing.
"Without the tools we cannot stop drug-impaired driving," Skinner said.
The test is an important way to prove that a driver was under the influence. Without it, Coun. Allan Hubley said he fears officers will be tied up in court defending impaired driving charges.
No money put aside for 2018
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that no money has been put aside in the 2018 police budget to pay for any of this. The budget includes only $500,000 for officer training, but no money for day-to-day expenses associated with marijuana legalization. Police also worry they will have to deal with the massive cost of shutting down illegal dispensaries, something they're already struggling with.
Mayor Jim Watson has called on the federal and provincial governments to chip in to pay some of the city's expenses associated with legalization but, with only months left to prepare, the governments have still not come to an agreement.