RCMP announce new online cannabis courses for police officers

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Canadian cops are going back to high school. Sort of.  

On August 14, the RCMP announced several new educational courses for police officers in light of recent changes to the cannabis laws.

The federal law enforcement agency teamed up with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN) to develop the curriculum just in time for October 17—the official date of adult-use cannabis legalization in Canada.

The main program, entitled Introduction to Cannabis Legislation, is currently available at no charge and aims to “inform and educate police officers in Canada on how to consistently apply the new laws surrounding cannabis”.

In an email to the Straight, an RCMP media spokesperson clarified these courses are not mandatory. It reads: "It is the responsibility of each individual police service to determine which members of their team will be required to complete these training programs."

Despite recent speculation surrounding new tools for officers at the roadside, the courses currently do not contain any information on oral fluid screening devices as a means to detect cannabis-impaired driving. The RCMP says it intends to update that "once Government approvals have been granted". On August 28Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the federal government has officially approved the Dräger DrugTest 5000—a German-made oral fluid testing kit—for police officers investigating potential driving infractions.

The email response continues: "The use of Standardized Field Sobriety Test training and Drug Recognition Experts will continue to be the primary enforcement tools against drug-impaired drivers."

Under the federal Cannabis Act, which recieved royal assent on June 21, laws will be enforced under a new non-medical regime—one which legalizes, regulates, and restricts access to all cannabis and cannabis products. The new act, or Bill C-45, permits an adult to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent amount of non-dried cannabis in public.

The RCMP confirmed to the Straight that exceptions to the possession limits will be made for drivers with grandfathered Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMAR) licenses, Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR) licenses, or Cannabis Regulations registrations.

"Those individuals can show proof of their legal authorization to possess cannabis for medical purposes and their authority to produce cannabis by providing law enforcement with a copy of their pink-colored authorization to possess, their personal use production licence, or their designated person production licence," writes an RCMP spokesperson. 

Upon completion of the course, police officers should be able to:

  • Identify cannabis in its various forms and relate it to legal quantities
  • Differentiate between the medical and non-medical cannabis regimes
  • Recognize criminal offences under the Cannabis Act
  • Articulate the elements and powers of arrest for each offence under the Cannabis Act
  • Identify hazards as they relate to environments involving cannabis
  • Understand how the new Act will impact policing in Indigenous communities on reserve
  • Make appropriate linkages to other training related to drug-impaired driving
  • Apply strategies to assist with critical thinking through unknown or new situations.

In the release, CACP President, Chief Mario Harel, said: "With such a significant legislative change coming in October, it was important for the Canadian law enforcement community to come together, share resources for a common goal which will benefit communities from coast to coast to coast."

The RCMP also created two ancillary courses with cannabis components entitled: Basic Impaired Driving Detection Techniques and Standard Field Sobriety Training Review and Introduction to Drug Impaired Driving for officers already certified in standard field sobriety training.

Police officers across the country will have free access to these courses from their CPKN portals.

Original article was posted August 14, 2018. In light of response from an RCMP’s media spokesperson, the content was updated on August 30, 2018.