Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jul 2014
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


NEW DATA FROM Statistics Canada reveals that last year almost 59,000
Canadians found themselves in trouble with the law for the simple
possession of marijuana.

That marks a 28-percent increase in the rate (per 100,000) at which
Canadians were charged with possession compared to 2003.

Over the same 10-year period, the rate of offences for the
trafficking, distribution, and production of cannabis was down 35
percent. There were just over 14,300 such offences in 2013.

In a telephone interview, Mark Mander, drug abuse committee chair of
the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), was quick to note
that a number of factors could account for those shifts. For example,
he said, people facing serious charges could be making plea bargains
on lesser offences.

Regardless, Mander continued, the statistics indicate that marijuana
is consuming a lot of police officers' time.

In August 2013, Mander took the lead on a CACP campaign advocating for
a "ticketing option" for marijuana possession. He argues that this
would allow police to issue penalties for people caught with small
amounts of marijuana without involving Crown prosecutors, lab
technicians, judges, and other officials required to process a
criminal case.

"If you look at the number of people going through the system, it
[ticketing] would free up officers' time and it would free up the time
of the courts," he told the Straight.

The Ministry of Justice referred questions on marijuana enforcement to
the RCMP, which did not respond to a request for an interview.

Dana Larsen, a campaign coordinator for Sensible B.C., argued that a
simple possession charge has become a more serious punishment than it
once was.

"Even just being charged and not being convicted can cause you
problems," he said. "There are plenty of examples of people who were
never convicted but who were simply charged and then blocked from
entering the U.S....The process of going through that can be very
challenging, time-consuming, and humiliating for people."

Drug offences (encompassing everything from possession to trafficking
and marijuana to heroin) is the only broad category of crime for which
Statistics Canada reports the rate of offences increased between 2003
and 2013. Violent crime was down 24 percent, property crime was down
41 percent, "other Criminal Code offences" was down eight percent, and
"other federal stature violations" was down 30 percent. Meanwhile, the
rate of drug offences was up 13 percent.  
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