Police across the country are as eager as the public to see what the Cannabis Act will contain if it becomes law, as expected, in July 2018, says the head of Greater Sudbury Police's drug enforcement unit.
If and when pot is legalized, it's not as if police will stop focusing on it, said Det.-Sgt. James Killeen, who took over the lead of the drug enforcement unit a year ago.
The changes in legislation will mean a shift in enforcement, and just like the Liquor Control Act, officers will be on the lookout for anyone contravening the new laws.
“It has been interesting to see how the attitudes toward marijuana has changed over my 19 years as a police officer,” Killeen said. “Even our younger officers today have grown up in a society that is more relaxed toward the use of marijuana. I think you're going to see a huge difference in police attitude towards marijuana.”
Killeen was guest speaker at the Sudbury Alcohol and Drug Concerns Coalition's information session April 20 that looked at marijuana and its proposed legalization.
The Federal Liberal government tabled Bill C-45 on April 13, saying it's meant to keep pot out of the hands of kids, discourage users from driving while under the influence and take pot profits away from criminal organizations.
The federal government set a minimum age requirement to purchase marijuana at 18, although it will leave it up to the provinces and territories to increase the minimum age requirement. And, once passed, it would give police the power to use oral fluid screening devices to check if drivers are impaired by marijuana.
An Angus Reid poll released April 20 (a day largely celebrated across the world by pot enthusiasts) finds Canadians are in favour of the proposed legislation, but they think it will fail its key goals in the long run.
More than six in 10 Canadians (or 60 per cent) say they support the proposed Cannabis Act, but even more (66 per cent) said they expect it to fail in making pot more difficult for young people to use.
Likewise, a small majority think the bill will fail to cut organized crime out of the marijuana industry, and half expect it to fail to prevent a surge in the number of people driving impaired.
Canadians are also somewhat divided on the 30-gram limit the bill sets for marijuana possession, with fewer than half (45 per cent) saying this is “about right,” and the rest more likely to say it is too high than too low.
Sudbury resident Len Frappier, 64, counts himself among the majority of Canadians in support of legalizing marijuana. He has been smoking pot for 40 years.
He smoked a pot when he was 21 to prove a point to his friend that marijuana was bad for you.
“I thought, how could I tell my friend not to smoke marijuana if I had never smoked marijuana myself,” he said.
Since that first joint some 40 years ago, Frappier has been an marijuana advocate. He said he doesn't smoke it to get high, rather, he uses it to alleviate the pain he suffers from multiple health issues. He's tried prescription medications in the past, but they didn't agree with him.
Every day, he eats a gram of cannabis oil in the morning, followed by an average of four more joints throughout the day. He's a licensed medical marijuana user, so he grows his own pot.
He firmly believes there are no negative impacts from using marijuana — unless you consider the munchies harmful, he said.
“The most harm marijuana might cause is an increase in pizza orders,” he said. “I've never heard in my 40 years of research and using marijuana of anyone dying from an overdose. The worst that will happens, physically, is they will fall asleep and have a good rest.”
And he's seen and experienced first-hand the harm hard drugs like cocaine and alcohol can do to a person. He's was, at one point in his life, addicted to harder drugs, but he managed to beat that addiction and found himself on the path to helping others.
Frappier is retired now, but he worked in the harm reduction program for the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth, which provides a needle exchange program and an outreach program that are free and open to anyone.
He said the federal government's proposed legislation is “long overdue.”
“The limits should be there, and I'm all for regulation and letting the professionals dictate the laws,” he said. “Police spend millions of dollars of years on policing marijuana alone, not to mention the cost of having these people in prison. Whose winning here? How ridiculous is our society if we want to put people in jail because they smoke marijuana.”