Police saw 'fewer issues than were expected' during 1st year of cannabis legalization: report

A report to Saskatoon's Board of Police Commissioners is outlining how the first year of marijuana legalization affected life in the city.

Saskatoon police laid 200 charges, including 8 driving offences, during 1st year, says police board report

Saskatoon police have released a report looking at the effects of the first year of cannabis legalization in the city on law enforcement. (Susan Montoya Bryan/Associated Press)

A report to Saskatoon's Board of Police Commissioners outlines how the first year of marijuana legalization affected law enforcement in the city.

"Since cannabis legalization on Oct. 17, 2018, the Saskatoon Police Service has experienced fewer issues than were expected based on our research," says the report, dated Nov. 28 and set to be presented at the board's Thursday meeting.

The report attributes that to the police service's preparation, along with "using appropriate investigative approaches when required, public outreach, and the efforts of government to provide a safe transition to legalization."

According to the report, Saskatoon police laid 206 cannabis-related charges, including eight cannabis-related impaired driving charges, from Oct. 17, 2018 to Oct. 17 of this year.

There were 11 charges laid during that year under the federal Cannabis Act. Offences under that act are federal offences, similar to former charges under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.

One of the largest investigations, the report says, was a guns and gangs unit investigation which seized 3.45 kilograms of cannabis and 960 grams of shatter — a concentrated cannabis resin.

Most of the charges were laid under the Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Act, which includes offences similar to the province's Alcohol and Gaming Act.

"Cannabis Act investigations have not had a significant impact on the [Saskatoon Police Service]," the report says.

"The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Act investigations initially impacted SPS operations," the report says, but "the robust approach to investigating and charging the operator of a non-licensed cannabis outlet appears to have stopped their establishment in Saskatoon."

One of the largest investigations laid under the provincial legislation was against an unlicensed cannabis outlet in downtown Saskatoon.

Police raided the Saskatoon Cannabis Clinic four times, and spent more than 300 hours on the case.

"This investigation was significant in that it was the first of its kind using the Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Act," read the report.

"Investigators spent hours in consultation with prosecutors on the development of investigative tools such as a format for the Warrant to Search."

9 roadside suspensions

As well, 50 minors were charged with possession under the act, and 55 people were charged with either possessing, consuming or distributing cannabis in a vehicle.

Saskatoon police also issued eight impaired driving charges where cannabis was either used or suspected of being used.

Police also gave nine roadside suspensions after drivers tested positive for THC, the active chemical in cannabis. 

Those suspensions were given out after testing of the Draeger 5000 Roadside Screening Device, which began to be used in July.

As far as costs, marijuana-related training expenses cost a total of $138,849 in 2019, an increase of roughly $23,500 from the year before.

Police said all of the costs were able to be funded through existing budgets. It meant, however, that other training programs were reprioritized.

Most of the cost was due to the time officers spent away from regular duties.

The report will be discussed at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting Thursday afternoon.