We never thought we’d live to see the day when law enforcement officers — cops, the fuzz, the heat — would be given the freedom to consume cannabis. But, friends, we are entering a brave new world.
In Canada, which is just weeks away from rolling out its entirely legal recreational marijuana market for adults 19 and older, marijuana is actually be handled like alcohol. According to a report from CBC News, most Canadian police agencies will permit officers to use marijuana “off duty” once legalization takes hold, holding them to the same standards as after-hours booze consumption.
For the majority of Canada’s police services, the consensus is that as long as an officer shows up to work “fit for duty,” there is no longer any issue with them getting high once they take the uniform off.
Police departments in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal have already put this pot rule in place, while others, including Edmonton and Toronto, are still fine-tuning theirs. So far, Calgary is the only jurisdiction that will completely ban police officers from using marijuana for any reason — not even on vacations can these men and women use cannabis to break from constabulary order. This, as it has been told by Chief Charles Bordeleau, is due to the force having a differing opinion of what it means to be fit for duty.
“An individual, an officer, needs to be fit for duty when showing up for work. We have different assessment methods to be able to determine whether that person is fit for duty or not,” Bordeleau told the Ottawa Citizen. “We’ve opted not to include hours of use. The term ‘fit for duty’ has been defined and that’s what most police services in Ontario will be following.”
This sounds a bit strict considering that even the Canadian military has given soldiers permission to consume marijuana. The only stipulation is that they do not get high eight hours before they are scheduled to report for duty. The rule is extended to 24 hours for those embarking on a mission that includes the handling of weapons and jumping out of an airplane. Most consider this a fair compromise. After all, it is comparable to policies dealing with alcohol and prescription drugs.
Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — the country’s national police agency — is considering a policy change that would give officers permission to use cannabis during their off time.
A recent report from the Vancouver Sun suggests that this policy will likely mimic the one outlined in Vancouver.
“Once finalized, the policy will provide direction to employees and their supervisors surrounding work standards on the non-medicinal use of cannabis,” RCMP Sergeant Marie Damian said in a statement. “All RCMP officers must be fit for duty when reporting for work, which includes not being impaired by alcohol or any other type of drug.”
Still, unlike the military, most police departments will not carry a time restraint on pot use. The policies essentially put the responsibility into the hands of the individual officers.
“We don’t have a specific time limit on alcohol or prescription drug use, and we will not be implementing one for cannabis,” Const. Jason Doucette, a department spokesperson, told CBC.
However, if a cop shows up for patrol stoned, they could face disciplinary action. To what extent has not yet been made known. In most cases, as long as the officer is “free from the effects of alcohol or any drug including cannabis,” when they report for duty, everything will be copasetic.
Law enforcement officers at all levels are expected to be trained on the full scope of Canada’s recreational marijuana law before it is launched on October 17. The new law, at least concerning the federal rules, gives adults 19 and older permission to possess, use and grow marijuana for personal use. Each jurisdiction, however, has the freedom to develop its own set of rules for how to handle the taxed and regulated market. So when it comes to the total plan, most police agencies feel there is a bigger issue to contend with rather than if their officers are using a legal substance. Many departments are still trying to figure out how to deal with high drivers and the vibrations of the black market.
But this brave new world of cops on cannabis is one that can perhaps provide us with a glimpse of how the whole of pot policy will eventually shift once more of the world discards the prohibition daze and legalizes the leaf once and for all. Although several states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for recreational use, the federal ban prevents police officers from using marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. It’s just now to the point where some police agencies are disregarding a candidate’s past marijuana use before considering them for a job. Not much more is expected to change until marijuana is no longer listed a Schedule I dangerous drug under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act.
TELL US, are you surprised Canadian police officers will be allowed to consume marijuana when they are off duty?