Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jul 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Joanna Smith
Page: A8


About 55,000 cases related to marijuana reported to police last

OTTAWA - The number of police-reported cannabis offences declined for
the fifth straight year, Statistics Canada said Monday, a downward
trend that began long before the Liberals brought forward their plan
to legalize the drug for recreational use.

The tally of police-reported crime from the Canadian Centre for
Justice Statistics said there were about 55,000 offences related to
marijuana reported to police in 2016, about 6,000 fewer than reported
in '15 - despite previous data showing consumption of the drug on the

The Liberal government has introduced legislation to legalize
marijuana - a goal it intends to achieve by next summer - but has
decided against decriminalizing simple possession in the interim,
which the NDP has been urging them to do.

Statistics Canada said police charged 17,733 people with possession of
pot last year.

That is a drop of about 3,600 from 2015, but still accounts for 76 per
cent of all cannabis-related charges.

"We've still got a significant number of people being charged for
simple possession of cannabis in this country," said Eugene Oscapella,
a lawyer who lectures on drug policy in the criminology department at
the University of Ottawa.

Statistics Canada also said the combined rate of drug-related offences
for substances other than cannabis and cocaine, which had also been on
the decline, has been increasing since 2010.

That included a seven per cent increase in the number of
police-reported offences related to the possession of drugs such as
prescription drugs, including opioids such as fentanyl, LSD and
so-called "date rape" drugs in 2016, compared to the previous year.
There was also a slight uptick in the number of drugimpaired driving
violations - 3,098 in '16 compared to 2,755 in '15.

Still, 96 per cent of all police-reported impaired driving incidents
involved alcohol last year, with only four per cent involving drugs.

Statistics Canada suggested one reason the rate is so low is that
impairment from drugs is difficult to measure.

Oscapella said the legalization of marijuana should come with more
public awareness of its true effects on driving. "Before, all we said
was 'Thou shall not use.' We paid very little attention to educating
people about social responsibility and driving," he said.

Meanwhile, the national crime rate didn't change in 2016. It has been
on a downward trend since the early 1990s.
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