When the federal government announced its plans to legalize cannabis in Canada, police services across the nation made preparations to ensure the safety of residents and help educate the public.

The OPS engaged in several proactive measures to ensure public safety, specifically in relation to impaired driving and reaching out to educate our youth on the effects of cannabis.

Our School Resources Officers (SROs) partnered with both Ottawa Public Health and our city’s school boards to create presentations to students on the adverse affects of cannabis use. By providing a sound educational platform, our SROs debugged many myths surrounding the previously illegal drug.

The OPS also ensured that its frontline officers had completed both the federal training relating to changes to the Criminal Code of Canada (including the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the new federal Cannabis Act), and the provincial training, relating to the province’s own Cannabis Control Act. By the end of 2018, more than 75% of members had completed the federal training, and the OPS created a more Ottawa-centric provincial training session, in response to a shift in provincial leadership after the fall election.  More than 20 officers were trained over the summer months in drug recognition testing, and the OPS now has 321 officers trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST). The OPS continues to train its members to increase the number of officers fully prepared to conduct these types of roadside tests.

In the lead up to the legalization of cannabis, our Drug Unit worked on educating landlords of illegal storefronts about the financial consequences of allowing these merchants to operate.  This resulted in many of these storefronts voluntarily shutting down rather than face some hefty fines, but our role and interaction with stakeholders changed again after the newly elected provincial government announced support for a private marketplace model.

Since that time, our Drug Unit has been working with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission, the Ontario Provincial Police and other police services on the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team (PJFCET) to provide feedback on how to address the legal and enforcement framework of the new law.  The OPS has assigned an investigative team to assist with this ongoing effort.

Under the Federal-Provincial Drug Impaired Driving Contribution Agreement, the federal government will continue to provide funding ($17 Million over 5yrs (2018-2023)) to enhance drug-impaired driving enforcement on Ontario roads. The funding will continue to support the costs incurred for police training and roadside drug detection device procurement, as well as measurement of the effectiveness of the roadside detection tools and prosecution process of alcohol and drug impaired driving.

On the day of the launch of the legislation on October 17, and over the course of the next few months, our Traffic Services team conducted several RIDE check programs to ensure that no drivers were out on our roads impaired.  As of March 2019, Ottawa has had only 19 incidents of driving impairment due to drugs. The OPS will continue to remain vigilant in enforcement measures to counter any impaired by drugs drivers and get them off of our roads.

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