Sudbury police say questions mount as countdown to cannabis legalization begins

Canada is four weeks away from having a new Cannabis Act. On October 17 it will be legal for any person over the age of 18 to possess up to 30 grams of dried marijuana. With the days ticking down, Sudbury Police chief Paul Pedersen says there are still plenty of questions he needs answered. grams of pot.

Still no provincial training available in Ontario for officers dealing with new pot law

There is still uncertainty for law enforcement when it comes to Canada's new Cannabis Act. Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen has questions about what will happen during a suspected drug-impaired driving traffic stop. (CBC)

Police in Greater Sudbury say rules about enforcing cannabis legislation in Ontario remain hazy with a month to go to legalization.

Canada's new Cannabis Act will come into effect October 17.

Under the new federal legislation, it will be legal for anyone over the age of 18 to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis. They can consume and share that pot as well.

As the date nears, police in Ontario still have no clear cut guidance for things such as traffic stops, and possession of higher amount of marijuana.

In Sudbury, Police Chief Paul Pedersen is most concerned about preparing his officers for the changes yet to come.
Bald man wearing a police uniform.
Greater Sudbury Police Chief, Paul Pedersen, says there are still many unanswered questions for police, when it comes to Canada's soon-to-be enacted Cannabis Act. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

He said there is federal online training available, but they're still waiting for something similar from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

"Provincially, a month away, the training hasn't been developed yet. We can't even give our people the training cause it doesn't exist."

Cannabis legislation was a key topic on the agenda at a board meeting Tuesday in Sudbury for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) said President Kimberley Greenwood.

There was some discussion about the federally-approved roadside screening tool that will check a driver's saliva for drugs.

"It is one of many tools. The [Drager DrugTest 5000] is a physical tool that will test cannabis," she said.

"Police services across the province are assessing what is the best tool for them."

Pedersen says they're assessing this saliva roadside screening tool, but he's already found one fault. It doesn't work in temperatures colder than five degrees Celsius.

"Pretty soon those temperatures are going to go below five. So we have to ask ourselves, is it a tool that's going to work for us in the North in the winter," he said.

Currently, to detect alcohol in the system of a suspected impaired driver,, police officers will first smell the driver's breath, then administer a roadside screening breath test in which the driver blows into the machine, and finally further testing is done at the police station to determine alcohol content in the driver's blood system.

Pedersen says detecting cannabis doesn't work the same way.

He says if an officer suspects impairment by drugs he first calls in a Field Sobriety Expert (FSE) who does further testing. Following this, the driver is taken to a Drug Recognition Expert who conducts a 100 point test to determine if they're impaired by drugs.

"Let's just think of the continuity of that, and how many officers are involved in that," Pedersen said.

He is also concerned that once the cannabis legislation comes into effect, police may need to seek intrusive, complicated tests like blood or urine samples from drivers to determine impairment.

"I'm not clear yet, with 30 days to go, exactly how we draw that blood."

What does 30 grams of pot look like?

Pedersen also wonders about the specific amount of marijuana that will be legal to possess.

"I don't know exactly what 30 grams of cannabis looks like," he said. However, he added that most officers generally know what that amount looks like.

He also wondered what will happen in the future when police arrest someone for possession of drugs, and the suspect has what appears to be more than 30 grams of pot.

"Does that officer need a weigh scale at the side of the road?" Pedersen asked.

"Does the officer give back the legal 30 grams to the person? Does the officer have to have a baggie to keep the other amount that's over that amount?"

Pedersen reassured residents that Greater Sudbury Police will be ready next month for the new cannabis legislation.

"Let's be clear, we can detect impaired drivers by drug, today, and are, and we'll be able to do it on October 18th the day after legalization, as well," he said, adding that police will just need to create new tools and new procedures for the changes.

Ontario Police College to offer e-learning soon

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services provided a statement to CBC News:

"The ministry is committed to working with policing partners to ensure they have the resources and tools to enforce the federal legalization of cannabis.

The ministry continues to expand training and detection by implementing a number of initiatives to address anticipated increases in drug-impaired driving.

Ontario has delivered standardized field sobriety testing (SFST) training for police officers to help detect impaired driving. As of August 31st, a total of 3060 officers have been trained in SFST and 304 officers have had Drug Recognition Evaluation training.

The Ontario Police College is developing e-learning training for all police services on the Ontario Cannabis Act. The e-learning training will be available early Fall 2018."

With files from Angela Gemmill and Frederic Pépin