RCMP relaxes drug policy to accommodate recreational cannabis use

Feb 20, 2024

Earlier in January, RCMP released a new substance use policy to replace the previous 2018 rule requiring front-line officers and other employees in “safety-sensitive” positions to refrain from recreational cannabis use for four weeks before duty.

According to a recent statement authored by the RCMP federation president Brian Sauve, RCMP union committees had been advocating for review and modernization of the policy since 2020.

In the summer of 2023, the 2018 policy was under review with no final decision taken. However, a briefing note released in spring 2023, prepared for RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme, and obtained last year by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act recommended a 24-hour restriction on cannabis use before reporting to work, with some exceptions.

“Policing organizations that initially had a zero tolerance or 28-day restriction have or are moving towards either a fit for duty or 24-hour abstinence requirement, or a combination of both,” states the briefing note. In addition, the note states that one of the most common inquiries at recruiting sessions is associated with recreational cannabis use policy.

 The new policy was published on the RCMP website on January 11. “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,” it states.

Furthermore, the policy notes that impairment “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.” 

The note also highlights that according to RCMP statistics concerning Code of Conduct allegations over the last five years, impairment occurrences were lower than 0.15% based on a total of 18,000 regular members.

The National Police Federation, representing approximately 20,000 RCMP members, has approved the move, referring to the previous policy as “not consistent with the police universe.”

“RCMP members work across Canada in a unique operating environment, as first responders, in rural and remote communities, and can be called back for duty at any time,” states the policy. Moreover, the RCMP offered no immediate comment on the new policy.