BAY ROBERTS, N.L.
A new day is dawning on police officers across Canada as the legalization date for cannabis gets closer and closer. But officers with the Bay Roberts RCMP detachment say they’re ready to do their part in working to ensure legalization doesn’t have a negative effect on safety in local communities.
Cpl. Matt Christie and Cpl. Bill Miller were guests at the Sept. 25 Bay Roberts council meeting, where the two men introduced themselves as the two temporary commanding officers for the local detachment (they will take turns handling those duties two months at a time).
During their presentation to council members about issues in the area, Coun. Geoff Seymour asked how officers are preparing for the legalization of cannabis, which is currently scheduled to be effective Oct. 17.
Christie served on an advisory board last year when government was preparing legislation to address impaired driving by cannabis. As part of his training while involved in traffic services with the police force, Christie traveled to Arizona to receive drug recognition expert training.
“I’m trained specific to the detection of drug-impaired drivers,” he said. “So, I’ve provided that service here in Bay Roberts and I’ve done it a number of times.”
Comparing it to impairment through alcohol, Christie acknowledged it may not be as easy to detect drug impairment given a drunk driver can be caught through the use of a breathalyzer.
“Specifically for cannabis, there’s a limited number of drug-recognition experts in the province, but we do have training. It’s very beneficial to Bay Roberts that they have one here in the local detachment, so I can be called in at any time,” said Christie, noting the Holyrood detachment also has a trained officer who could help if necessary. He added officers will likely have the option to use an oral swap in the absence of a trained drug-recognition expert.
Once Oct. 17 hits, different rules will apply when it comes to possessing the drug. Miller noted the drug’s treatment inside a vehicle will to be similar to that of alcohol. Those caught disobeying such rules will face fines.
“However it will be packaged, if it’s in the vehicle, it needs to be in a certain place,” Miller said. “It needs to be not cracked open, same as liquor. It can’t be within the reach of the driver … We’ll be enforcing all of those things, as well as the impaired driving.”
Those sorts of infractions will be on the mind of officers conducting traffic stops for speeding and other traffic violations, Miller further noted.
“Whatever it is — running a stop sign — we’re looking for other things too,” he said.
The treatment of cannabis will also be similar to alcohol when it comes to public consumption. For Newfoundland and Labrador, the use of cannabis in public places will not be permitted. Once legalized, the drug will be sold online through the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation and in-person through licensed dealers. Among the latter will be Dominion stores in Bay Roberts and Carbonear and Holyrood Medical on the Conception Bay Highway.