On and off-duty Calgary police officers banned from cannabis use

Sep 27 2018, 10:26 pm

With cannabis legalization looming nearer on Canada’s horizon, police organizations, city councils, and residents across the country are readying themselves for October 17.

One recent move made by the Calgary Police Service (CPS) was to iron out the details surrounding who they, as employers as well as protectors, would allow using the drug recreationally under their employ.

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According to Darren Leggatt, superintendent of the Calgary Police Service and senior officer in charge of CPS’s Cannabis Legalization Project, an updated substance abuse policy has been issued to CPS members as of late last week.

“The Calgary Police Service has chosen an abstinence position on recreational cannabis for only sworn members who are qualified to carry firearms and are able to be operationally deployed,” Leggatt said in a phone interview with Daily Hive, “which also includes our sworn police recruits, and those officers are prohibited from using recreational cannabis both on duty and off-duty.”

Leggatt elaborated on what is considered “operationally deployed,” stating that the term refers to officers who may be called upon to respond to an emergency situation in a primary, secondary, or support role.

“At the end of the day, that means the vast majority of our officers,” Leggatt said.

He stated that the decision to start with an abstinence policy came after nearly a year of  CPS studying the available — if currently limited — research into the impairment effects of cannabis. Leggatt said they found that cannabis metabolized differently than alcohol, and had the potential to at least partially impair a person for up to 20 days — resulting in a risk to the officer and public safety, even if used while off duty.

“Policing is inherently a dangerous and unpredictable job,” Leggatt said. “We rely heavily on our officers, who are all professionals, to be at their best in terms of their ability to physically and cognitively perform.”

That being said, the abstinence approach is being used as a starting off point due to the limited research available on the effects of the drug, and Leggatt spoke to the Service’s understanding that the policy may be challenged down the line.

“We understand that there are challenges that are likely going to arise for no other reason other than that this is a new world for us as a police agency, and it’s also a new world for us as an employer — like every other employer across the country.”

CPS does not have the intention of introducing regular drug testing after legalization, according to Leggatt, and instead will trust their officers’ ability to follow the policy.

Five to seven hours of training will also be provided for officers regarding cannabis legalization, which will include details on the CPS’s workplace policy. Additional training will be given to supervisors so that they may be able to determine the signs of a member who may be “in a state where they can’t perform their duty,” and what to do if that event were to occur.

“We have a multilayered approach to it, but it starts with the true belief that our officers are true professionals,” Leggatt said.

“We believe they all understand the inherent dangers and complications associated with their job, and that they do their best to be fit for duty at all times.”

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