News / Winnipeg

‘Pretty tight timeline’: CAA Manitoba, police concerned about looming marijuana legalization

'Lots of work still needs to be done,' said Erika Miller, public and media relations specialist at CAA Manitoba.

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016.

Ron Ward / The Canadian Press

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016.

As Canada's provinces stare down a looming marijuana legalization deadline, local road safety advocates fear they may be left facing last-minute hurdles of their own.

A spokesperson for CAA Manitoba said the province needs to implement road safety improvements ahead of July 1, 2018—when the federal government plans to legalize marijuana.

“The provincial government is staring down a pretty tight timeline, and lots of work still needs to be done,” Erika Miller, public and media relations specialist at CAA Manitoba, said in an emailed statement.

She added that CAA Manitoba believes inadequate funding is the province's biggest hurdle to the safe and smooth implementation of legal recreational marijuana.

“There needs to be increased funding to train more drug-recognition experts in the police force, and to run marijuana myth-busting educational and awareness campaigns.”

While Manitoba has yet to table a marijuana legalization plan, Const. Stephane Fontaine, an impaired driving countermeasures co-ordinator with the Winnipeg police, says the police force is ready.

“We’re prepared to deal with any influx with drug-impaired drivers,” Fontaine said, adding that the WPS will be putting on as many specialized courses as it can over the next couple years to deal with any potential influx in drug-impaired drivers.

He added that the WPS will defer to the federal government with regard to legislative changes.

“Having said that, the legislation is not tabled yet, we have no idea how it’s going to look,” Fontaine said.

“If they’re still aiming for that July 1 legalization date, there are a lot of questions that are unanswered right now that need to be answered, and hopefully sooner than later,” Fontaine said.

“That timeline is getting shorter and shorter every day.”

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a new investment of $36.4M over the next five years for a cannabis education and awareness campaign.

The funding will be used to inform Canadians, including youth and other priority populations such as Indigenous peoples, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and Canadians with a history of mental illness, of the health and safety risks of cannabis use and drug-impaired driving.

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