The next step in preparing for the legalization of marijuana has been made. The provincial regulatory framework was released on Wednesday by the Saskatchewan government, outlining several key components. These include setting the minimum consumption age at 19, zero tolerance behind the wheel, prohibition in public spaces and keeping it illegal for minors.
"I think it's a responsible framework. Every province has their own take on legalization and how they're going to proceed with it, at the end of the day it is what it is," stated Police Chief Paul Ladouceur.
"There's only a few different models that can be applied. Either the government takes full control of it, or it's privatized. We're seeing that with alcohol in this province already. There's off-sales and privatized liquor stores. At the end of the day, this (cannabis) model is very closely mirrored to the system we have in place for alcohol right now in this province. It think that makes it a lot better for enforcement for the public in understanding, and I think it keeps it consistent."
That trend of consistency also holds fast when it comes to the minimum age, and the Chief noted that benefits will arise from both the drinking and marijuana being set at 19. However, he did add that it is still early yet to tell what the overall outcome will be for Estevan and southeast Saskatchewan
"We will have some challenges, without a doubt, as a police service when it comes to things like enforcement and impaired driving by drugs. We have been preparing for it behind the scenes for quite a period of time now. When we look at the new framework, I certainly think it does involve common sense."
"I'm very supportive of the zero tolerance for all drug impaired drivers, and I think that sends a strong message that this is a serious concern, in this province especially."
Moving forward, he said that he likes the slow approach being taken as they see how everything unravels in the area. Education campaigns in the schools will be a focus, reminding children of the consequences of underage use. Additional training for EPS members has already taken place, as several officers have returned as Drug Recognition Experts, and several others will be trained in Field Sobriety Testing.
"We've got our finger on the button, you might say, when it comes to where we need to be at this stage as a police service. I think we will be well prepared for this as it comes in," Ladouceur expressed.