Police officers in Ottawa, Ontario will be allowed to consume cannabis while off-duty once recreational marijuana is legalized later this month, according to a report from the CBC. The Ottawa Police Services Board adopted a new fit-for-service policy to govern cannabis-use by officers at its meeting on Monday.
Deputy Chief Steve Bell said that the policy is similar to the guidelines already in place for the use of other substances that may affect work performance.
“You can’t show up high. You can’t show up drunk. You can’t show up using prescription medications that are going to impact your ability to do your job,” Bell said.
Bell said the department had considered banning all use of cannabis by officers, but decided it could not prohibit a legal substance. Instead, the department has based its guidelines on the overall physical, emotional, and social condition of officers to determine fitness for duty.
“It’s not illegal and in that, we didn’t feel that we were in a good ground to say that we should prohibit our members from using it,” Bell said. “Instead we said you’ve got to come to work and be ready to do your job.”
Bell added that policies regarding the use of other legal substances based on fitness for duty already have a strong precedent.
“The term fit for duty has been defined and that’s what most police services in Ontario will be following,” he said.
Police officers in Vancouver, British Columbia, will also be able to use cannabis once it becomes legal in Canada. Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Const. Jason Doucette said last month that the officers in the department would be allowed to self-regulate their use of cannabis, similar to guidelines for other substances.
“We don’t have a specific time limit on alcohol or prescription drug use, and we will not be implementing one for cannabis,” said Doucette. “Our officers will be provided with information surrounding cannabis-use and potency, etc., and it will be their responsibility to ensure they show up fit for duty.”
Regina, Saskatchewan Police Chief Evan Bray said that his department is putting the “finishing touches” on its guidelines, but confirmed that officers there will also be allowed to use cannabis.
“It involves finding the right balance between avoiding regulating what our employees do in their own spare time and the expectation that they are fit for duty when they come to work,” Bray said. “We don’t tell our employees they cannot drink alcohol in their own time, away from work, but we do expect our officers to show up for work fit for duty.”
Police officers in Montreal, Quebec, and with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and most military personnel will also be allowed to use cannabis. Police departments in many other major cities in Canada have not yet revealed how they will manage cannabis use by officers.
So far, only the Calgary Police Department in Alberta has announced that it will not allow its officers to use cannabis when recreational marijuana becomes legal on October 17.
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