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Cops won't hit training goal before pot is legal

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OTTAWA—The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says it is unlikely to reach its goal of having 2,000 officers trained to spot drug-impaired drivers when marijuana becomes legal later this year.

Last fall, the agency representing about 90 percent of police agencies in Canada warned the government that before pot becomes legal, its members need more time to train officers in the new laws, as well as to recognized drug-impaired drivers in a roadside stop.

Natalie Wright, a spokeswoman for the chiefs of police, told The Canadian Press that only 733 officers had completed the specialized training as of May, up from 665 in February.

In March 2017, about 600 officers had the training.

“While it is unlikely that we will attain our target number of 2,000 Drug Recognition Experts by Oct. 17, we are confident in our present processes, knowing that they will continually improve with time as we build capacity,” Wright said in a written statement.

At current rates of training, it will take more than five years before Canada hits 2,000 trained officers.

The International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, which includes looking at things such as vital signs, eyes, balance, and co-ordination for indications of impairment, began in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

Canadian officers still must travel to the United States for the training.

At a House of Commons' committee hearing last fall, police chiefs said it would be better if Canada could have training at home because the U.S. courses are in high demand, with priority given to American police forces.

Staff in Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale's office did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.

Previously, his officials have pointed to $161 million in funding for police training and drug-testing equipment over the next five years, as well as a public awareness campaign about the perils of driving while high.

Legislation that passed Parliament in June allows for the use of roadside saliva tests to detect the presence of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana but no such test actually has been approved yet for use in Canada.

In May, federal officials indicated they didn't know when the government would make a decision about which particular test will get the green light.

Six weeks ago, the western premiers jointly asked the federal government to address the issue provinces face with drug-impaired driving enforcement, including expediting the approval of saliva-based screening tests before pot becomes legal.

Manitoba Justice minister Heather Stefanson said yesterday her government remains concerned about the readiness of law enforcement to handle legalized marijuana, and the province wants the October implementation date delayed until police are more prepared.

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