Pubdate: Sun, 09 Jul 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Authors: Jim Rankin and Sandro Contenta
Page: A8


Pot is the most popular of Canada's illicit drugs.

According to the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey,
about one in 10 Canadians aged 15 and older reported marijuana use in
2013. One-third of Canadians reported using it at some point in their

The police-reported crime rate peaked in 1991 and had been declining
ever since. Not so the police-reported rate of drug-related offences.
They grew by 52 per cent from 1991 to 2013, according to a Statistics
Canada report into drug-related offences.

There were 109,000 police-reported drug offences under the Controlled
Drugs and Substances Act in 2013 alone, with two-thirds involving
cannabis. In fact, half of all the offences were for possession of
pot. Cocaine accounted for the next largest group of offences at 16
per cent.

About one in 20 incidents reported by police on 2013 was primarily
drug-related, according to the Statscan survey.

Affected most by police-reported drug offences are young people, ages
18-24, charged at a rate of 1,176 per 100,000 people in that category,
followed by those 12-17 at a rate of 741 per 100,000.

In roughly half of completed cases in youth and adult courts involving
marijuana, the marijuana charge was the only charge. Marijuana cases
across the country were "more commonly stayed or withdrawn (55 per
cent) than cases involving other types of drugs (38 per cent)," notes
the Statistics Canada report.

While possession charges laid by Toronto police gradually increased
under Bill Blair's tenure as chief, in 2013, the service ranked low in
laying of drug offences, per capita, compared to other large urban

Across Canada in 2013, four out of 10 marijuana-related offences (41
per cent) were "cleared" - or disposed of - before reaching court,
compared to 17 per cent for other drug offences.

Police have been using discretion to keep a lot of marijuana cases out
of the courts, but police databases that track arrests have, in many
cases, indeterminate shelf lives.

"Once you're on the radar, you're always on the radar," says Daniel
Brown, a Toronto criminal lawyer.

In Toronto, a first arrest for simple possession often results in an
unconditional release or diversion, resulting in no criminal record,
but the arrest remains in the system.

A second arrest may not be treated as lightly and can lead to charges,
court appearances, the stress that comes with that, including the
financial strain of paying a lawyer, and a conviction that can affect
employment and travel.

Often, conditions are placed on the convicted, leading to
administrative charges for breaching those conditions, which can
include automatic jail time.
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