Officers of the Central Saanich Police Service will be able to use cannabis, but they must not use it within 24 hours of their shift.
In an interview, Sgt. Paul Brailey, president of the Central Saanich Police Association, said it was about striking a balance between public safety and allowing officers to use a legal product.
“I don’t foresee a whole lot of police officers starting to smoke dope next week,” said Brailey, however, the police department felt a policy should be in place.
Brailey said even if officers did meet the 24-hour rule, they must also be fit for duty, mentally and physically. That applies to officers as well as administrative staff of the Central Saanich Police, all of whom deal with the public during emergency situations.
While Central Saanich is the first local police force on the south Island to have a cannabis policy for officers, Brailey said “the stars just aligned” because of a timely Police Board meeting last Thursday (Oct. 11).
Brailey said the Central Saanich Police examined the policies of other police forces across Canada, and did not find consistency. The RCMP has a 28-day prohibition, which the Canadian Police Association (representing officers) have called an effective ban, and some other forces like Calgary prohibit most officers from using cannabis recreationally at all. Brailey said the 28-day approach by some departments is more susceptible to a legal challenge.
“We set 24 hours because for the most part, THC will be out of your blood — the hallucinogenic effects of it,” Brailey said.
For the rest of the population, Central Saanich officers will continue to use the standard field sobriety test (eye test, walk and turn, standing on one leg, etc.) until a saliva-based testing device is adopted. Any police officer can issue a driving prohibition, but Central Saanich Police has also trained a drug recognition expert to do more tests if more serious charges are to be laid against a person.
“This is going to be a legal substance, similar to alcohol in the eyes of the government,” said Brailey. “I think there has to be a balance between an officer’s rights and ensuring that the safety of the public and [public confidence] is maintained.”