Saunders ‘open’ to making changes to police pot policy if new research is presented

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders says he would be “open” to making changes to a new policy that, for the most part, prohibits officers from using marijuana in their personal time if better research can be presented.

Ahead of legalization next week, a video was sent out to members of the police service on Oct. 5 outlining a new policy that would prohibit officers from using marijuana within 28 days of reporting for active duty.

Speaking to press on Wednesday morning, Saunders said a significant amount of research went into developing the policy.

“We have done research for almost a year and a half on this very issue knowing that this day was going to be approaching. Within that research, we’ve hired experts and doctors. We’ve also done a study right around North America to see what the best practices are,” he said.

“The research showed that in the extreme case, THC can be in your body for up to 28 days.”

He said that given the nature of the work officers do, the police service wanted to take every precaution to make sure they are fit for duty.

“Here we are issuing police officers guns… we are giving them the legal authority to go through red lights and to drive in excess speeds to get to locations. We put them in critical situations where they go into danger and they have to make decisions in nanoseconds,” he noted.

“Anything that impedes that I feel is an obstacle for what success should look like.”

But Saunders was quick to say that he is open to listening to other research on the subject.

“It there is more research, if there is better research… I’m willing to listen,” he said.

“I said as we grow, as we develop, as we learn, this is something that can change and I’m willing to change. So I am open. If the association comes up with better research, if others come up with better research, I’m willing to have a listen to see what is best.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said he was aware a policy would be forthcoming, but said he did not have the details regarding the new rules.

“The TPA has not seen this policy nor have we had the opportunity to review its content. We are aware the draft policy may contain a 28 day waiting period before a member can report for duty after consuming cannabis,” his statement read.

“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.”

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