With recreational marijuana being legalized next month, the Timmins Police Service says it is gaining confidence around the changes.
On October 17, federal legislation will legalize and regulate recreational cannabis, but the province will be deciding where it can be sold and how much can be possessed.
Chief John Gauthier says there will be rules put in place as to where you can legally smoke recreational marijuana, which will be a slightly different set of rules compared to those with a medical licence. Gauthier says for example if somebody was walking down the street smoking a marijuana joint, it will be prohibited. He adds that if that person has a medical licence, it will be allowed. He says the hard part for officers will be knowing determining whether or not to approach someone when they get calls related to this.
Gauthier says police are waiting to find out about the penalties for offenders. “The province, although they are going to give us more information, we don’t know a set fine right now as it stands for smoking marijuana in a public place. It’s not quite there and we have been told that we will get a schedule of set fines before October 17th.”
Gauthier says in the meantime, officers are starting online courses on the Federal and Provincial Cannabis Act to prepare for the upcoming legalization date. Some officers have also taken the standard field sobriety testing course, meaning if an officer suspects that a driver is impaired, an officer with more training can be called. TPS says more than 19 officers are getting the training, not specific to one unit. It says it will be trying to have a number on each shift, so if someone is away on vacation, there is always somebody filling the position.
In terms of screening devices, the Timmins Police Service doesn’t have any. The service says there is a tool that tests saliva for THC, but at this point, it will not be buying any. It says just because it doesn’t have this tool, doesn’t mean officers can’t gather other evidence for impaired driving and lay charges. TPS says this is a tool it will look at purchasing in the future.
Chief Gauthier says “I certainly feel confident that with the training that our members are going to be receiving, we have a fairly good understanding of where we need to go with this new legislation coming, we feel comfortable that our officers know when to arrest, that hasn’t changed. It’s trying to work with the province getting as much information as we can in terms of enforcement and the day-to-day stuff.” Gauthier says this includes things like simple possession of over 30 grams of dried marijuana in your pocket and consuming in public.