RCMP, fewer restrictions on cannabis use but “the most effective way to avoid any safety risk is to abstain”

TORONTO – RCMP officers will be freer to smoke marijuana on their off hours, as long as they are “fit for duty” once they return to work. The turning point has come in recent days and represents a strong relaxation of the RCMP’s policy on the consumption of cannabis by its members. 

The new substance use policy replaces a 2018 rule that required front-line officers and many other RCMP employees in “safety-sensitive” positions to abstain from recreational cannabis use for four weeks before duty. The change, implemented earlier this month, brings the Mounties in line with many other police forces.

According to CBC, the National Police Federation, which represents nearly 20,000 RCMP members, welcomed the decision, saying the previous policy was “not consistent with the universe of policing.” A recent statement from Brian Sauvé, president of the Federation itself, notes that the union committees support the review and modernization of the cannabis policy from 2020. The RCMP acknowledged last summer that the 2018 policy was under review, without a final decision having been made. A spring 2023 briefing prepared for RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme ultimately recommended a 24-hour restriction on cannabis use before reporting to work, with some exceptions.

“Police organizations that initially had a zero tolerance or twenty-eight day restriction are moving towards a requirement of fitness for duty or 24-hour abstinence, or a combination of both,” reads the briefing note, obtained and published last year by the Canadian Press. Last January 10, the new policy was made official, with the publication on the RCMP website, updated compared to the one in force since 2018: “All RCMP employees must be fit for duty when reporting for work, which includes not being impaired by alcohol or drugs. The policy reflects the duty of care the RCMP has for its members and the communities it serves.”

On the same page, however, it is warned that “substance use can adversely affect job performance, conduct, the work environment, and the well-being of the user and of others, and can compromise the safety and security of policing services. With respect to the use of impairing substances (for example cannabis), the risk of impairment varies with user characteristics, use patterns, and product quality; therefore, it may differ from one user to another, and from one use episode to another. The most effective way to avoid any safety risk is to abstain from use. All employees must be fit to perform their duties and carry out their responsibilities, and must not be impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other substances when on duty or at work.”

Photo from Twitter X – @rcmpgrcpolice