Toronto

'Reasonable to keep an open mind' on pot, Toronto police chief says

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says, “it is reasonable to keep an open mind” on the legalization of recreational pot, and he is asking the force’s cannabis working group to continue looking into the impact of changing marijuana laws on the service into next spring.

Mark Saunders said a final policy on recreational pot for TPS members will take into account latest research

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders recommends keeping 'an open mind' on the issue of recreational pot use, as the force works on a permanent set of guidelines for TPS members. (Canadian Press)

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says, "it is reasonable to keep an open mind" on the legalization of recreational pot, and he is asking the force's cannabis working group to continue looking into the impact of changing marijuana laws on the service into next spring.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the day before recreational marijuana use becomes legal across Canada, Saunders said he has invited the Toronto Police Association and the Senior Officers Organization to join the working group "to ensure their views are taken into consideration.

"I have instructed the Cannabis Working Group to continue its work, reporting back to me no later than April 2019 with an analysis of the existing procedure and a general overview of the impacts legislation has had on the Toronto Police Service," Saunders said.

He also vowed to update the Toronto Police Services Board at its next meeting on Oct. 25.

Last week, Saunders addressed the force's members ahead of the legalization of recreational marijuana. In a clip obtained by CBC Toronto, Saunders said officers will be prohibited from serving on active duty within 28 days of using cannabis.

On Tuesday, Saunders said the working group made that recommendation following months of work looking into current research. He said three guiding principles inform the approach:

  • That members of the largest municipal police force must "set a high standard" and ensure public safety by ensuring "that members are always unquestionably fit for duty."
  • That the force's approach must be informed by science and medical research. "The science we have relied upon warns us that cannabis is a psychoactive drug that can continue to affect a person's ability to make good decisions, concentrate, control impulses and rely on memory for up to several weeks after last use," Saunders said. "Members need to rely on these very abilities every day."
  • The force must be "fair and reasonable" to TPS members.

"At the same time, we recognize that there are competing perspectives. This change represents a significant transition, not just for members of the Toronto Police Service but for all Canadians," Saunders said.

"Consequently, it is reasonable to keep an open mind and to make room for practical considerations, if necessary."

Board supports chief's interim policy

Also Tuesday, the Toronto Police Services Board said in a statement that it "fully supports" the chief's interim policy regarding recreational cannabis use among force members.

"Like the chief, the board also recognizes that the medical research in this area is evolving, that any policy and procedure must be reasonable and fair to the members of the Toronto Police Service and that we must maintain an open mind in the months ahead as the board potentially establishes policy and the service drafts a finalized procedure," the statement said.

The board also applauded the extension of the working group's mandate and the expansion of its ranks, and agreed that the matter be revisited.

It also agreed that, because medical research is evolving, the policy must remain fair to TPS members and "we must maintain an open mind in the months ahead."

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