The Toronto police union says a policy banning officers from using cannabis within 28 days of duty is “ill-contrived” and “arbitrary,” and says it will conduct a legal review of the policy for compliance with legislation and human rights.
“There is no correlation to impairment in having a 28-day waiting period,” the Toronto Police Association board of directors wrote in a message to membership sent out Thursday afternoon, slamming the policy announced by Toronto police chief Mark Saunders late last week.
“We do not support this draft policy.”
Saunders unveiled the details of the policy in an internal video late last week. The policy is among most restrictive among police services across Canada, all now grappling with establishing policies on officer use of recreational cannabis in advance of legalization next week.
In a statement earlier this week, Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the decision was based on research and advice from groups including the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
“We have not come to this decision lightly. It was made thoughtfully and based on sound advice and evidence, considering the critical role members play in ensuring a safe workplace and a safe community,” she wrote, adding the service would continue to “research and explore this procedure.”
In the internal message, sent to the TPA’s nearly 8,000 members, the union slammed the policy and stated it would be meeting with the service to discuss it. According to the message, both Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Police Services Act provide “adequate governance outlining a member’s requirement to report ‘fit for duty.’”
“It is irrelevant why a member may be unfit. What is relevant, is whether or not the member meets the threshold of fit for duty when reporting to work,” the note from TPA board of directors states.
The statement added that the logic behind the Toronto police policy would suggest that the 28-day waiting period would equally apply to other occupations “including all first responders, emergency and medical staff, and anyone driving any type of motor vehicle or operating heavy machinery.”
The Toronto police policy also does not address the issue around exposure to second-hand marijuana smoke, the message states.
The union says it is continuing its legal analysis of the policy “for compliance with our collective agreements, legislation, human rights and case law to determine our next course of action.”
The Calgary Police Service has announced it will implement a wholesale ban on officers using recreational cannabis, while the Vancouver Police Department’s policy simply states officers must arrive “fit for duty,” though they will be prohibited from consuming cannabis prior to the start their shift.
The Toronto policy does not apply to medical marijuana users, who are accommodated under a different policy, Gray said Tuesday.
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis