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Canada's cops are ready for legal cannabis on Wednesday, but retailers may wait a while to go legit

Last Updated Oct 15, 2018 at 6:50 pm EDT


Law enforcement will vary across Canada, but the regular consumer should not expect prosecution

Unlicensed cannabis retailer will not see their doors kicked down come Wednesday's legalization

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Police across Canada are ready for cannabis legalization this Wednesday, though the entire process for legal weed will be on-going, which worries one pot business advocate about the time frame it will take for retailers to go legit.

In a press conference at the Vancouver Police Department on Tuesday, Adam Palmer, Vancouver Police Chief and the president of the Canadian Association of the Chiefs, says enforcing the laws will be a concerted effort by all three levels of government and dealing with the still illegal parts around growing or selling cannabis is nothing to new police forces.

RELATED: Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

He says those operating unlicensed retail stores should not be afraid of cops raiding their shops, however, pot business owner and advocate Dana Larsen expects cannabis store licensing to drag on after legalization, especially given that municipal election in B.C. are taking place a few days after legal weed takes effect.

“I think that’s going to have a profound influence on what happens in terms of how these things are licensed municipally,” Larsen tells NEWS 1130, saying changes in local government are almost more important than the actual legalization. “They might make it more strict, they might limit it even more, who knows. The fact that the elections are coming right after legalization probably means there is going to be six months or more to put these rules in place.”

WATCH: 400 RCMP officers trained ahead of cannabis legalization


Chief Palmer is welcoming the clarification on laws regarding retail stores. With the provincial government overseeing licensing, he expects a smooth transition of unlicensed stores into the legal realm as time goes by.

“I find it highly unlikely that anyone is going to be doing any kind of a big crackdown on day one and you’re probably not going to see a whole big change with regard to what the police are doing,” he says. “Some provinces have more up and running [stores], others don’t, but I think they’re taking a pretty common-sense, pragmatic and measured approach to get new stores in line.”

Larsen will not be not be closing his two stores in downtown Vancouver for the time being because a lot of his customers rely on products that won’t be legally available for at least another year, such as edibles and concentrates.

“I am not willing to tell all those people to get lost and go on to find their own source and we’ll be back in a year or two,” he says. “People need those products, especially for medicinal purposes and we’re going to keep providing them.”

Smokers should not be worried about prosecution, but driving high is a big no-no

He thinks it will be easier for smokers to toke up in B.C. since the rules will be akin to those for cigarettes, unlike alcohol, which is prohibited from public consumption.

“Issues related to public consumption will likely be addressed by local by-law officers, similar to how to tobacco smoking offences are administered now, while impaired driving will be addressed by your local or provincial police services, depending on where you live or travel in Canada,” Palmer says. “It’s important that the public be aware that different infractions may involve different agencies and different response times, depending on the risk to public safety.”

Again, in other provinces it will vary where and what smokers are allowed.

“Some provinces are like that, others are more strict on public consumption, but it’s going to be very similar to tobacco,” Palmer says.

“Different areas in the country will have different priorities,” Palmer adds. “This will not change with legalization of cannabis and there are other pressing public safety issues in our country that we are facing.”

WATCH: Driving impairment 5 hours after using pot: study


Driving high is still a snag as police are still working out how to properly measure impairment levels. Palmer says parts of Bill C-46, which flesh out the new driving laws, come into effect in Dec. 18, and he expects to see a potential increase in high drivers in the meantime.

“We have well-established techniques to detect impairment that have successfully passed the test of the Courts in Canada for many years now,” he says. “We will continue to rely on the standard field sobriety testing and drug recognition experts.”

Gadgets such as the cannabis level measuring Drager 5000, he says, will also be implemented, but are only one tool in catching high drivers. Palmer says the use of the machine will not be wide-spread, even though it has been approved by the government after tests across Canada last year. He says it does not fit the need of every police force across Canada.

RELATED: Province updates marijuana retail roll-out in B.C., without much detail

“The CACP encourages further research and development of screening devices capable of quantifying THC levels, however, each individual police service in Canada will evaluate and determine the potential use of drug-screening devices to meet the needs of their police agency,” he says.

Palmer says there are more than 13,000 officers in Canada who trained in recognizing impaired drivers at present, with additional 7,000 yet to be trained over the next few years. There are also over 800 drug screening experts with roughly 500 more to come.