Both the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the Ontario association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) received considerable media inquiries this week on whether police services will be able to train the required number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) needed to administer Canada’s new law related to cannabis. The CACP reported that the goal of having 2,000 DREs trained to spot drug-impaired drivers when marijuana becomes legal later this year will likely not be met.
The CACP stated that 733 officers had completed the specialized training as of May, up from 665 in February. In March 2017, about 600 officers had the training. The figure of 2,000 refers to the estimated number of DREs that will be required to meet the anticipated increase in demand once cannabis is legal. DREs are trained to conduct the standardized field sobriety tests to spot drug-impaired drivers on the road. They are further specialized to test drivers once they have already been stopped for the offence.
Police services rely on Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), the use of DREs, and bodily fluid testing to determine the presence and impairment by drugs. Canadian police services are working diligently to increase the number of trained officers while ensuring that there is a strategic deployment of trained police officers across each jurisdiction.
Federal funding will allow provinces and territories to increase front-line officers trained in SFST to approximately 33% (currently approximately 15% of frontline officers are trained in SFST except Quebec, where all police officers are trained in SFST). During the next three years, it is expected there will be more than 7,000 new SFST trained officers across Canada.