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Police union boss wants changes to 28-day marijuana ban for police

Last Updated Oct 18, 2018 at 5:39 pm EDT

The head of the Toronto Police Association is calling on Police Chief Mark Saunders to implement a fit for duty test instead of a 28 day ban on officers having cannabis in their system.

Mike McCormack says other jurisdictions in the province, such as Halton, York, London and the OPP, have adopted this rigourous test to determine if an officer is impaired and unable to perform his duties. He adds there are a number of circumstances where an officer could come into contact with second-hand smoke during the course of his duty and then that marijuana could get into their system, which would violate the chief’s 28 day policy.

“To say that you shouldn’t have marijuana in your system for 28 days – there’s no science that really supports that position and we don’t see the grounds for that position and it sets up a domino effect,” McCormack tells CityNews. “Now we’re going to have officers who are exposed to second-hand smoke and it creates all these other issues. We think it should be a fit for duty test. Period.”

McCormack says if officers are exposed to second-hand smoke in a confined space, they will advise their membership to file an IOD (injured on duty) form and then take time off. He says this could end affecting dozens of officers.

“Marijuana is legal and there will be circumstances where we attend calls that we would normally attend but there will be people using marijuana,” he said. “It’s a legal substance. I think the exposure rate will be a lot higher than it was in the past.”

“But given the policy that we have, this 28 days, that’s why this is not a really sound policy. It’s in your system, the chief said you’re not allowed to have it in your system, so these officers will have to put in an IOD and possibly go off work.”

McCormack says while this may sound like the union is trying to “stick it to the chief,” it’s simply a matter of practicality.

“I’d say it’s not the union sticking it to the chief at all. Where we have a policy that says you can’t have it in your system for 28 days and our officers are being exposed, what choice do they have.”

“It’s not a practical solution to have this 28 day ban, which is essentially what it is.”

McCormack plans to meet with Saunders on Thursday to discuss the union’s concerns before sending out recommendations to the membership.

Saunders has said in the past that his 28 day policy is an interim step and he’s open to revisiting it.