How Victoria police will deal with high drivers, off-duty marijuana use
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak held a news conference Wednesday morning to address how the department would approach new laws surrounding marijuana use. Oct. 17, 2018. (CTV Vancouver Island)
It's a massive shift in drug policy across Canada, but Victoria's top cop says cannabis legalization won't change much when it comes to taking impaired drivers off the road.
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak held a news conference Wednesday morning to address how the department would approach new laws surrounding marijuana use.
He said his department will not use the Dräger 5000, a federally approved marijuana screening device, to test drivers for pot impairment, citing concerns over the device's reliability, accuracy and practicality.
"Instead, we are 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," Manak told reporters, adding police will assess any new screening technologies as they come out.
He said officers trained in administering roadside sobriety testing will be deployed in coming weeks at roadblocks aimed at busting high drivers.
The department will also launch an education campaign in the coming weeks called "Wait Until You Get Home," urging cannabis users to avoid getting high before they drive or while they're driving.
He also reminded passengers that they are also prohibited from smoking weed in vehicles.
When it comes to determine a threshold for impairment, Manak said police will be able to hand out roadside suspensions and order blood tests to obtain necessary evidence for prosecuting pot-impaired drivers.
As for existing marijuana dispensaries that have remained open in Victoria, despite not yet obtaining a provincial license, Manak said police won't be ordering raids anytime soon.
"The Victoria Police Department does not plan to take direct enforcement action against these establishments, at least in the initial stages," he said.
Currently, the only licensed dispensary in B.C. is the government-run BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops B.C., which opened for business Wednesday morning. Some privately run dispensaries in the process of applying for a license have temporarily shut down until the process is complete, while others are chancing it and remaining open.
Manak said any directive to take action against illegally operating storefronts will come from the province's new enforcement arm, and that police will heed any such requests.
Police officers in Victoria and Esquimalt will be permitted to use marijuana off-duty, so long as they don't consume the drug within 24 hours of reporting for duty. If any employee is on call, they will be prohibited from using cannabis.
"The objective is to ensure that employees are coming to work fit for duty while respecting their individual rights under the new federal legislation," said Manak, adding that existing policies will likely develop further over time.
He said he didn't expect legalization to immediately unburden beat cops in B.C.'s capital, since police have been using their discretion for years when it comes to people smoking pot in public.
Manak reminded users that the Clean Air Bylaw which prohibits tobacco smokers from lighting up near doors and air intakes also applies to cannabis. Violation tickets of $230 will be handed out at officers' individual discretion.
"We're going to be fair and reasonable in our approach," he said.
In all, he said police are ready for the new challenges legalization might bring.
"At the end of the day I think the public needs to know that the police agencies are ready and we have an obligation to protect our community," Manak said.