From left, municipal councillor Steve Gillespie listens intently to Cape Breton Regional Police Service Chief Peter McIsaac’s presentation about cannabis legalization during a police commissioners meeting on Tuesday, while citizen appointee, Dale Deering-Bert reviews his notes. Nikki Sullivan/Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY, N.S. — The crunch is on to prepare for marijuana legalization, according to Cape Breton Regional Police Service Chief Peter McIsaac.

“July 2018 is only eight months away. When this thing becomes legal, whether Nova Scotia has its framework in place or not, there’s going to be online services, there’s going to be other provinces that have their framework in place. People are going to be able to get the stuff,” he said while answering questions at a Cape Breton Regional Municipality police commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

“My concern right now is getting the training so that … we can get our officers ready and have the proper resources so we can deal with this stuff when it becomes law.”

Officers need to learn new laws regarding cannabis, youth and cannabis, and impaired driving due to cannabis. They will also have to learn how to use new screening equipment, such as a device that can detect THC through an oral swab.

But the biggest issue McIsaac sees is training officers in detecting cannabis intoxication, something currently not done in Canada.

“It’s got to come to Canada. For cost effectiveness and flow and function they’ve got to find a better way to do this,” said McIsaac, speaking to media after the meeting.

The CBRPS has sent a few officers for the training in Arizona, which costs between $8,000 and $10,000. During the meeting, McIsaac said they are lucky to have been able to do that but noted the cost is too much for their budget.

Provincial governments are going to get 75 per cent of the taxes collected from marijuana sales but it hasn’t been determined if the municipalities will get any.

The federal government has allotted $81,000,000 over five years for training and equipment for police departments across the country. McIsaac said that seems like a lot but it isn’t.

“I speak to the policing service, department of justice all the time. I know they got to sit down with the feds to figure out the funding formula. They know it’s not enough,” McIsaac said, addressing a question from vice-chair of the meeting, District 2 Coun. Earlene MacMullin.

“In relation to the costs, I hope there’s going to be some money coming back to the municipality because our folks are tapped out now. Our budget is against the wall now.”

Another concern McIsaac has as legalization approaches concerns impaired driving due to cannabis.

“Impaired driving is still the leading cause of death and injury in this country … there’s about four per day in Canada,” he said.

“We’ve seen and heard from the experiences in Colorado and Washington, when they legalized it a few years ago, we can expect to see a significant increase in impaired driving offences that we must be equipped to handle.”

McIsaac said he hopes when the new laws regarding cannabis and impaired driving are passed, they will be “good, definable, enforceable laws that make sense.”

During the presentation, McIsaac said legalizing marijuana will help keep it out of the hands of youth who “can get weed easier than a pack of cigarettes.”

He also said legalization means better quality marijuana because the government will regulate how much THC can be in it, what growing conditions are needed and what kinds of fertilizer can be used.

CBRPS has seized marijuana contaminated with fungus, which can cause health problems. McIsaac said some fertilizers found on illegal pot may also cause harm if inhaled.

CBRPS have not seized any marijuana laced with drugs like fentanyl, although McIsaac confirmed there is some cocaine in the CBRM laced with the potentially deadly drug and fentanyl has been found disguised as 5mg Percocet and 80 mg oxycodone pills.

Joseph Gillis, the provincial appointee who was vice-chair of the meeting, called the legislation to legalize marijuana “disastrous.”

“I can’t see … anything coming good of it at all,” he said.

“This totally complicates everything for police enforcement everywhere. I just don’t know how an officer can discern when a person is impaired by THC over alcohol.”

McIsaac said the new proposed laws would make police detection of impaired driving easier by relaxing the rules around screening. If the new laws are passed, officers will no longer need suspicion of impairment to request a screening.

Related coverage:

NS sets age & distribution

Tax breakdown

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