Victoria police said they will focus on stopping drug-impaired driving following Wednesday’s legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada.
Recreational marijuana sales officially started at 12 a.m. on Wednesday through the provincial government’s online portal — www.bccannabisstores.com. Then at 10 a.m., British Columbia’s first and, so far, only provincially-run marijuana dispensary opened in Kamloops.
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said the police department will work with the federal, provincial and municipal governments to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, keep profits out of the hands of criminals and protect public health and safety by allowing adults to regulated cannabis.
“VicPD will also focus on drug-impaired driving,” Manak said.
Manak said officers have been taking impaired drivers, off the road for decades, whether they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, and the department will not be using the Drager DrugTest 5000. The device tests saliva for the presence of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. Each one costs $6,000.
Manak said there was some concern over the device’s reliability and accuracy, and the device is too bulky to be practical.
“We’re going to rely on our current practice of deploying our officers using the standardized field sobriety testing and the drug recognition experts that we have. We have used these trained officers for many years. We’re going to be deploying these trained officers in the coming weeks at roadblocks throughout Victoria and Esquimalt.” Manak said.
“We’re going to be deploying these trained officers in the coming weeks at roadblocks throughout Victoria and Esquimalt.”
Manak also said more officers will take drug recognition training in the next six months to a year.
In the next few weeks, VicPD will also be launching a campaign called Wait Until You Get Home.
“As the name suggests, if you choose to consume cannabis, the clear message is wait until you get home. Don’t do it before you drive, don’t do it while your driving. It’s illegal, it’s not safe and you are putting yourself and others at great risk,” Manak said.
As for the unlicensed cannabis storefronts that are still open in Victoria, Manak said the department will not be taking “direct enforcement action.” Instead, the province’s new enforcement branch, called the Community Safety Unit, will ensure compliance and taking action against storefronts that have not obtained a licence.
“If the provincial branch requires the assistance of the Victoria Police Department, it will be provided,” Manak said.
An operational directive has been drafted to address the use of recreational cannabis by off-duty officers. Manak said this will make sure officers come to work fit for duty.
“The directive will not allow employees to consume cannabis within 24 hours of reporting for duty,” Manak said.
“If an employee is on call, they will be prohibited from using cannabis.”
Manak said most of the cannabis laws outside of driving are consistent with tobacco. For example, the Clean Air Bylaw also applies to cannabis and a provincial violation ticket with a fee of $230 can be issued for anyone smoking in a place cannabis is prohibited.
“There are very few possession charges and it’s been quite accepted here especially in the province of B.C. with cannabis use and consumption,” Manak said.
“For us, October 17th doesn’t make a major shift in what we do and how we carry on with business.”