‘This is nothing new for us:’ Alberta RCMP say they’re ready for legal cannabis

More than 400 officers are trained to do field drug testing, Alberta RCMP said

Marijuana is legalized in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)

EDMONTON — Alberta RCMP say Mounties will be ready when recreational cannabis becomes legal in Canada on Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Brad Mueller said officers will use tried and true investigative techniques to detect people who are driving high, as well as new technology when it becomes available.

“The Cannabis Act or Bill C-45 represents a significant change in enforcement, but the people of Alberta can be assured of the same level of service delivery from their provincial police force,” he said during a Friday news conference.

“We have put the necessary tools and resources in place and continue to adapt to this change.”

Mueller said they are working with government agencies, other police forces and subject matter experts on the implementation of the new law.

They have increased their capacity in areas such as prevention, intelligence, security screening and training, he said.

Mueller said the RCMP will bring in four of the federally approved roadside marijuana test devices and strategically deploy them across the province.

“We have undergone the initial stages to train our officers in the use of those devices,” said Mueller. “Once we secure them, we will begin the deployment and begin the enforcement action around them.”

They won’t be available by Wednesday, and it’s unknown when the RCMP will have them.

In the meantime, Mueller said officers will rely on various investigative techniques — such as standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition experts — that they’ve long been using to determine impairment.

In Alberta, he said there are more than 400 officers trained to do the field testing and another 42 trained as drug recognition experts.

Cpl. Richard Nowak, a drug recognition expert, said they are able to determine whether a person is impaired by drugs with a 12-step process.

“We take a subject through five physical co-ordination divided attention tests, as well as taking several clinical measurements of their blood pressure, pulse rate, pupil dilation, body temperature so we can see if their body is operating as if they are sober or if there is a drug influencing those readings,” he said.

Nowak said they look for any impairment from all drugs or alcohol.

“If they are impaired, they are impaired. Impairment is impairment. Drunk or high,” he said. “It is are they safe or not.”

Both he and his superiors said they believe they have the tools necessary to deal with drug-impaired drivers on the road and ensure it’s safe for others.

“This is nothing new for us — impaired driving by drug — we’ve been enforcing that for many years,” said Mueller. “With the addition of the new tools and technology, we’ll continue that.”

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