Chief Constable Adam Palmer, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police arrives for a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Palmer assured that police forces across the country are ready for the legalization of cannabis which will happen nation wide Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

Dozens of illegal pot stores have operated for years in Vancouver, Victoria and other municipalities in B.C.

Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization on Wednesday, but there won’t be swift crackdowns on illegal pot shops or craft cannabis growers, says the head of the country’s police chiefs.

Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said he hasn’t heard of any police departments planning raids of unlicensed dispensaries the day pot becomes legal.

“I find it highly unlikely that anybody is going to be doing a big crackdown on Day 1,” he said at a news conference Monday.

“Oct. 17 is going to come and then Oct. 18 and then Oct. 19, and you’re probably not going to see a whole big change with regard to what the police are doing or what anybody else is doing.”

Police have faced questions about their readiness for this week’s historic change in law. Palmer acknowledged Canadians are entering “uncharted waters,” but noted officers have been policing drug-impaired drivers and illicit grow-ops for years.

“I’m here to tell Canadians that the police are ready,” he said.

RELATED: Canadian military issues guidelines for marijuana

Enforcement against unlicensed marijuana stores will primarily fall to provinces, which are using inspectors to levy fines as they do with illegal liquor sellers. However, Palmer says police and city officials will work with provinces on the issue.

Provinces are also responsible for approving retail licences and their speed at doing so varies. Alberta will have 17 licensed stores selling weed on Wednesday, while B.C. will only have one and Ontario will have none.

Dozens of illegal pot stores have operated for years in Vancouver, Victoria and other municipalities in B.C. Many are planning to scale back because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances of getting a provincial licence, Palmer said.

Vancouver marijuana retailer Eggs Canna has slashed prices by 10 to 50 per cent to sell off its illegal stock. Its four stores will close at the end of the day Wednesday and won’t reopen until they hold licences, said Stefana Herman, a member of the chain’s corporate team.

READ MORE: Are you ready for marijuana to be legal Oct. 17?

“We are trying to actually do this legally, cleanly and correctly,” she said.

“I appreciate what the police chiefs are saying and I know that there are a lot of dispensaries in the city that are going to continue to actually stay open … without the appropriate business licences, but nobody else in the city gets to run that way.”

Vancouver police have long chosen to avoid cracking down on illegal dispensaries unless they are suspected of organized crime connections or selling to minors. This is in contrast with Toronto police, which carried out sweeping raids of pot shops in 2016.

Dispensaries found more underground ways to operate in Toronto and many accept that they will have to close until spring when Ontario launches its licence application portal, said Ian Dawkins, president of the Canadian Commerce Association of Canada.

READ MORE: B.C. to have only one store selling pot on first day of legalization

But in B.C., retail outlets are well-known in their communities and serve loyal customers who come in regularly, he said.

“You’re talking about shutting down a cash-flowing, operating business with maybe a dozen employees. It’s a whole different ball of wax,” he said. “Should people close their doors? If they do, what if that puts them out of business?”

Palmer said he’s not concerned about Canadians losing access to cannabis. Statistics Canada found 16 per cent of Canadians, or 4.6 million people, have consumed marijuana in the last three months, the chief noted.

“So with millions of Canadians using an illicit drug supply for decades and decades in our country, when the law changes on the 17th you’re not going to see a big change overnight.”

Some police agencies, including Vancouver and Ottawa, have decided against using the federally approved Drager DrugTest 5000 roadside device that tests saliva for the presence of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

But Palmer said there are 13,000 officers trained in standard field sobriety testing in Canada and that number is expected to rise to 20,000 in the next several years. In addition, there are 833 certified drug recognition experts and 500 more are expected to be trained in the coming years.

He added police likely won’t focus on shutting down boutique grow-ops that are waiting for federal micro-cultivator licences, and instead will prioritize shutting down growers with alleged gang connections.

Organized crime continues to be heavily involved in the whole drug market, including marijuana, he said.

“We’re hoping that with the new laws and regulations that they will be able to eliminate them significantly.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Local singer/songwriter Ryan Langlois lands in Project WILD’s top three

Popular artist could land as much as $100,000 for his dream recording project

Festival of Trees celebrates the season while supporting a tremendous cause

The 25th annual Festival of Trees opens Nov. 21st

Oh What a Night! celebrates iconic American legends

Frankie Valli and Andy Williams honoured during Red Deer show

WATCH: Hundreds come out to annual Red Deer Lights the Night

Celebration featured lighting of City Hall Park and Red Deer’s Christmas Tree

Santa Claus comes to Bower Place

Dozens line up Saturday to have photo taken with Jolly Old Saint Nick

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Six students arrested, charged in sex assault probe at Toronto all-boys school

The school’s principal, Greg Reeves, described the video of the alleged sexual assault as ‘horrific’

Calgary Stampeders back to Grey Cup with 22-14 win over Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Calgary was favoured to win the 2017 and 2016 Grey Cups, but lost to the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Redblacks respectively.

‘A giant step forward’: new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond to enter circulation

A new $10 banknote featuring Viola Desmond’s portrait will go into circulation, just over 72 years after she was ousted from the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.

Searchers in California wildfire step up efforts; 77 dead

Trump arrived at the oceanside conclave Saturday afternoon after visiting Northern California to survey the wildfire damage in the town of Paradise.

Trump says ‘no reason’ for him to hear Khashoggi death tape

“It’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said in the interview.

Canada Post calls for ‘cooling off’ period to allow for mediated talks

The proposal came as Canada Post workers continued their rotating strikes Monday after rejecting the Crown agency’s latest offer.

Metro Vancouver homicide detectives busy after separate weekend deaths

Homicide detectives in Metro Vancouver are investigating separate cases involving two deaths they say appear to be either targeted or suspicious.

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Most Read