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Toronto police will be barred from consuming weed within 28 days of duty: internal video

Last Updated Oct 9, 2018 at 7:23 pm EDT

The days of busting citizens for smoking weed may come to an end with federal legalization on October 17, but it doesn’t look like the Toronto Police Service (TPS) will be taking a lenient approach when it comes to marijuana use by its own officers.

In an internal police video leaked to a Toronto radio station, Chief Mark Saunders says officers will be barred from using marijuana within 28 days of reporting for duty.

In the video, Saunders says studies have shown that THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, can linger in one’s system, causing levels of impairment that are incompatible with police work.

“Research has shown that THC can be stored in your body for many days depending on many variables,” Saunders said. “This point has created a new fitness for duty procedure … Based on our research the procedure will prohibit all members of the service from using recreational cannabis within 28 days of reporting for duty.”

In the video, Dr. Craig Winsor, Medical Advisory Services for TPS, elaborates on the potentially long-lasting effects of the drug, especially with heavy use.

“Individuals who use cannabis can potentially show the effects of impairment up to 28 days later and for those who are habitual users, this impairment is even more pronounced. This means that even several weeks later your ability to concentrate, your memory, decision making, balance, and other cognitive factors could be impacted negatively,” he said.

Toronto Police Association (TPA) president Mike McCormack told CityNews in an email that the union is aware of a draft policy that “may contain a 28-day waiting period before a member can report for duty after consuming cannabis.”

McCormack added that the union has not yet seen the draft, or had an opportunity to review its contents.

CityNews reached out to the Toronto Police Service for comment, but has not yet received a response.

“Once the TPA receives an official version of the policy dealing with this topic we will perform a legal analysis of its content for compliance with our collective agreements, legislation, human rights, case law, etc. and make a decision about any further action we may take at that point in time,” McCormack added.

Other agencies drafting policies

A source has told CityNews that the RCMP will also reportedly adopt a 28-day waiting period, while both York and Peel regional police say they are still working on their marijuana policies for officers. York police called it a “work in progress” and said it was hoping to have it completed before Oct. 17, while Peel police said it would be completed sometime after federal legalization comes into effect.

In the meantime, the TTC said it expects employees to adhere to policies already in place.

“We have a comprehensive policy when it comes to employees needing to be fit for duty (not impaired),” the TTC’s Stuart Green said in a statement. “Put simply, employees must be fit for duty when on duty.”

Green stressed that random testing for impairment has been in place since May 2017 and will continue for employees in “safety-sensitive positions.”

“The TTC is not interested in what employees do on their own time. This is no different than our policy for alcohol,” Green said. “With pending legalization of cannabis, we have updated our employee manual to reflect the new rules and remind them about their obligations around random testing and fitness for duty.”