Military wrestling with marijuana legalization: defence chief
Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance prepares to appear before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on Canada's national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities, in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA -- The military is currently wrestling with the implications of marijuana legalization, Canada's top general says -- including time restrictions on using the drug before going on duty.
"We're going to try to be smart about it," chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said on Monday. "But in the end, this is dangerous duty, this is serious duty for the country, and we don't want people doing it stoned."
Vance's comments came during an appearance before the Senate defence committee, where he was largely grilled on the troubled military procurement system, peacekeeping and efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct in the Forces.
But with the clock ticking down toward legalization in the summer or early fall, the question of how the military plans to address marijuana use by service members was particularly topical.
"We are looking at it," Vance told the committee. "I am very soon to make decisions on the specific and unique circumstances associated with military service that would preclude someone from using cannabis at a particular point in time."
The general played down suggestions of a complete ban or prohibition on marijuana use by military personnel or even certain occupations such as pilots, adding that he plans to take a common-sense approach that "follows the law of the land."
But the Canadian Forces' surgeon general is looking at different initiatives to better understand the drug's effects, including how long they last, Vance said, to ensure the military has the necessary information to make the right regulations.
"I think we're going to have some way of assuring ourselves, based on the best science available, what other industries are doing," he told the committee.
"So if it's illegal to fly a plane in Canada having used cannabis within a certain period of time, it's probably going to be illegal in the Armed Forces as well. Just for the air safety. I don't have the answers yet, but those are the kinds of things we're looking at."
The issue of how to monitor and regulate marijuana use isn't unique to the military, as police forces, commercial airlines and other industries and organizations are facing the same questions.
But despite the unanswered questions, Vance was confident about finding the right balance.
"I don't anticipate this being a significant problem for us. We want to understand it. We want to understand better how to detect it. We want to make decisions based on evidence," he said.
"We don't want to start laying down rules about when you can and cannot have taken cannabis that don't make sense in terms of your ability to recover. So we're going to try to be smart about it."
The Trudeau government had hoped that a legal cannabis regime would be ready by July, but it looks like Canadians will have to wait until August or September to be able to buy legal weed.