Legalizing marijuana will tie up police resources and risks clogging the court system, Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says in a blunt assessment of Canada’s plan to legalize the drug by next summer.
“I don’t think we’re going to be ready,” Knecht said during a year-end interview at Edmonton Police Service headquarters. “There’s a lot of work that’s got to be done in the next few months.”
Legalization is one of the biggest issues facing police services across the country next year. Police chiefs including Knecht have warned that the timelines are too tight and there are too many outstanding issues, including ambiguity around roadside tests for marijuana intoxication.
The federal government has left details such as where marijuana will be sold to the provinces. It also proposes stiff penalties for people who operate outside of the regulated system, including a proposed 14-year maximum sentence for selling cannabis to youth.
Knecht disputes claims legalization means police will no longer lay possession charges.
“I’ve heard some people argue, ‘Well, you’re not going to be laying possession charges anymore,’ ” he said. “I think we’re going to still be doing (that), only it’s become a little more complex.”
The law will allow possession of certain amounts of marijuana for personal use.
“If you’re over that amount, then it’s an offence,” Knecht said. “So nothing’s really changed for the police other than you’ve sort of layered on more work, and the complexity of it. And there’s going to be a lot of ambiguity at first.”