No ‘huge spike’ in pot impaired drivers in Cornwall post-legalization

Police Chief Danny Aikman, right, speaks about the police budget, including upcoming challenges in 2019, during a police board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Aikman says they haven't seen a huge spike in marijuana impaired driving cases since the drug was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018. Also shown is Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – While identifying marijuana legalization as a major challenge in 2019, Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman says they haven’t seen a big problem with people toking up behind the wheel.

“We have not seen (impaired operation), by the way. There hasn’t been a significant uptick in regards to the number of charges laid…yet. And maybe that’s attributable to a training issue, just not identifying what’s going on with the driver,” Aikman told the police board Tuesday.

“We haven’t seen a huge spike yet.”

Aikman said they spent a lot of time last year on “expensive undertakings” – training officers in field sobriety and drug recognition. The drug recognition training is about $5,000 per officer and Cornwall’s force currently has four trained officers.

The chief says the department was notified last week that provincial funding will be available for officer training and a roadside screening device, called the Draeger Drugtest 5000. Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart said they are hoping the unit will be fully covered by a grant.

“There is a substantial amount of money coming forward. I’m hoping it’s going to cover the entire cost,” Spowart said. The grant could be up to $6,000. “I’m hoping that’s going to cover the cost of one (unit).”

Recreational cannabis was legalized over four months ago — Oct. 17, 2018. While Cornwall didn’t get a brick and mortar store in the first round of retail licences, people can still buy it online through the Ontario Cannabis Store.

Chief Aikman says they don’t know what effect the lack of a retail location is going to have on the illegal market. “There are still, no doubt, cannabis sales going on in various locations in the community and we’ll make our best efforts in regards to intervening in those illegal markets.”

The other “great unknown” is what role organized crime is going to play in the distribution of illegal cannabis going forward, the chief added. “The likelihood that they are getting completely out of the business would be very unlikely.”