Legalizing marijuana and “keeping it out of the hands of our youth” will mean more work for police, according to Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.
Manak, presenting the draft 2018 police budget to city council on Tuesday, said the upcoming legalization will increase the need for police training, the creation of education and enforcement strategies around impaired driving, the monitoring of home grow operations and dealing with minors who illegally use and possess the drug. Coun. Jeremy Loveday wanted further explanation from the chief, noting that possession will no longer be a crime.
“Organized crime has been involved in cannabis and trafficking for years, there are billions of dollars they are making. They will not walk away just because it’s legalized,” Manak responded. “They will try to find a black market, they will try to find a price point, they don’t have to pay taxes. There is always going to be a need for it.”
Questioning the need for additional enforcement around cannabis and youth, Loveday pointed out that police don’t have a dedicated alcohol unit to deal with underage drinking.
In preparation for legalization, Canadian police chiefs have been meeting with police leaders in Washington State and Colorado, where marijuana is legal. Police in those jurisdictions did not feel they had adequate funding and training, Manak said, adding that VicPD wants to be prepared. Managing drug-impaired driving, for one, is an ongoing issue for police, as reliable technology comparable to a breathalyzer for alcohol doesn’t exist to detect cannabis use.
And while the laws around marijuana have yet to be decided, Manak hopes the federal government will consider banning home grow-ops. Regardless whether residents are allowed a certain number of plants – a scenario he strongly opposes – some people will inevitably grow more than that, which adds extra work for police to monitor, he said in an interview after the meeting.
“I support a model that has proper regulatory framework in place, and a retail model that allows entrepreneurs who are vetted and security checked to keep organized crime out of the industry, to have their retail operation and distribute it.”
And while Loveday agreed there needs to be education and a plan to deal with drug-impaired driving, he is not convinced cannabis-related enforcement requires a major increase to the police budget.
“It seems very counter-intuitive. This is a process to make a plant legal, as it should be, and to me that means we are moving it from the criminal justice system,” he said.
“We have higher priorities than going house to house trying to figure out how many plants people are growing … I don’t see how legalizing it will make more people start breaking laws regarding cannabis, because they will have legal access to it.”