The Adult In The Room

Regulatory challenges of cop marijuana use


In my police service we had what was called a “Parade for Duty”. This meant we all began our shift by standing in a straight line while a Sergeant inspected us to ensure we were clean and presentable for public consumption and we were abiding by all the regulations. Equipped, clean and sober.

On this particularly memorable shift we all noted with interest one shift mate who stood erect with a true spit and polish look about him. As the sergeant came down the line, however, he noticed something was out of kilter. We all braced for the coming storm. The courageous and pioneer-spirited officer had placed an earring in his left ear. The Sergeant, being an old navy man, stopped in front of him and stared deeply into his blue eyes. “Tell me about your little adventure on your days off,” he growled in a low tone. The officer, clearly getting more nervous, said that nothing of interest had really happened. “You are wearing an earring so obviously something did happen because you must have survived a shipwreck. Just in case everyone does not get too confused about what uniform you are wearing… take it out!” He then jutted his jaw forward and slowly stared around at the rest of us saying, “Someone out there on the street has to act like an adult and that job, boys and girls, has fallen on ALL of us.”

These paraphrased remarks stuck with me. As almost all officers can attest you spend 90 per cent of your time keeping people from their own misadventure. Others have described it as the thin blue line that stands between peace and anarchy, order and chaos, good and evil.

At no other time in history has this concept of police being the adults in the room been more important in this country. With the nation-wide legalization of marijuana each officer must consider what priority they put on being the cooler headed person in society as opposed to the coolest person in the crowd.

My colleague with the earring was obviously feeling the need to blend in with the crowd on his days off. He came to work with it still in place and withstood the jabs and teases from his peers until he was faced with making a choice. He either wanted to be an insider or an outsider when it came to his chosen career. His oath of office did not permit him to take a holiday from it.

Today each officer must decide what importance they place on consuming pot. Is it so important to their lives that they are willing to take chances that everything will be okay? With the jury being still out on the full ramifications of pot usage is it okay to partake?

When a police officer takes on the mantle of being societies protector they must understand the importance of standing back from the crowd for the crowd’s benefit. Society places them on a higher plain and expects them to be worthy of their trust. In return officers are given a good living and benefits with a secure future. They are endowed with considerable powers and given automatic status and respect in the community by simply being that trusted adult who is ready to help.

Many police agencies are struggling with how to manage their member’s use of marijuana. It would be naive of us to assume all officers will not, nor have ever, consumed pot. The problem is how to control its consumption among members expected to show good judgement at all times. Very few professions require such a high standard. When these standards fall below expectations lives may hang in the balance.

Currently many agencies have instituted a wide range of responses to the use of marijuana by their staff. The ranges include a complete zero tolerance to a rather unenforceable “no reporting for duty for 28 days after last consumption.” What falls in between could be described as murky at best. Other reports suggest members attending events with excessive marijuana usage be booked off IOD for the 28 day “last consumption” period. The humorous image of massive numbers of squad cars racing to a noisy party complaint, with attending police sniffing the air robustly, has not been lost on a few.

All humour aside there is considerable cause for concern. Over the years of marijuana legalization promotion very little has been said about the fat solubility of THC. Many have drawn long exhaustive and inaccurate comparisons to alcohol abuse. One factor proponents have avoided is that the intoxicating factors of alcohol on the body passes completely with time through the elimination of water from the body. Not so for THC. Small portions stick around in fat accumulations and one side effect of increased appetite only exacerbates this factor.

Only recently have I heard any public mention of this. It was certainly kept well in the background when legislation was being drafted. Searching the Internet under “Fat Solubility of THC” certainly makes the hazards clear enough. Let me give you an edited extract from (I had to do considerable editing as it has all the appearances of being written by someone who partakes.)

So how is THC Stored and how do you detoxify?

Let’s sum this up. Burning fat can take a long time. Fat cells storing THC can remain in your body for a very long time. Repetitive marijuana use will also stack these cells up making it harder to detoxify. That is why a regular smoker with a high body fat percentage will take longer to detox. The cells are stacked against them!

Think of it this way. If you smoke every day for a year, then decide to quit, the last fat cell containing THC you burn was the first one you stored. That was a year ago.

Let’s get into some bullet points:

• It is stored in fat as THC-COOH
• It remains there until the fat cell is burned for energy
• After the fat cell is burned, THC is once again in the system
• THC is finally on the way out through bodily fluids

You can speed this whole thing up by quitting weed for a long time. Exercising daily, eating less calories, avoiding carbs and dropping body fat. Of course you will need to drink more water to flush out the newly released THC.

Of course for police agencies the preferred ultimate goal would be zero tolerance. As is the case with general police work, some discretion must be in order.

Officers on the road

You should educate yourself. Not just for your personal benefit but for understanding what you may confront on the streets. Some factors include THC being a trigger mechanism for paranoia and schizophrenia. These two maladies have been connected to the Greyhound bus incident in Manitoba and the more recent stabbing of an innocent woman shopping in a Toronto store.

Police supervisors

If you hired good people you have to take the chance they will stay good people. Once a member has been found to have abused their oath it is important that constructive intervention be applied. If you are a supervisor of police officers you must consider and trust that you have screened and trained the best people that can be found for the job. Having a regulation that places an “elf-on-a-shelf” scenario to scare members into obedience is insulting to people who must be trusted to do what is right. A supervisor must be diligent and observe their members daily.

Current regulations giving a clear understanding to members that they are expected to be the adult in the room should be good enough. All members are responsible to be vigilant and seek ways to ensure the community is being served appropriately. Those falling short must be corrected and given the help required to bring them back to the adult that was appointed in the first place.
Notes and links:

The Adult In The Room (TAITR)

Definition: A person who makes calculated, rational decisions based on all available data.

Example: Everybody is thinking with emotion, but Jim is the only adult in the room.