With a cannabis dispensary seemingly on every second corner, Vancouver residents might think that police are already giving marijuana crimes a pass in advance of legalization scheduled to take effect later this year.
But a new report by University of Victoria researcher Susan Boyd makes clear that B.C. cops are still hassling lots of people for cannabis and other drugs, even when it comes to the simple matter of personal possession.
“B.C. had 11,004 cannabis possession arrests in 2016,” Boyd writes. “B.C. has the highest provincial cannabis possession arrest rate…in the nation, and the smallest decrease in rate from 2015–2016.”
Even in liberal Vancouver, there were plenty of people who got in trouble for carrying weed.
“The City of Vancouver had 961 cannabis possession arrests in 2016,” the document continues. “In 2016, 40.8% of all drug arrests in Vancouver were for cannabis possession.”
The March 2018 report is adapted from a presentation that Boyd drafted for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).
To write it, Boyd relied on Statistics Canada data. She notes that drug-arrest figures for Vancouver obtained from the federal agency are substantially higher than statistics for the same arrests supplied by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).
The report also draws attention to arrests for hard drugs like heroin, and how those arrests are likely complicating authorities’ response to Canada’s overdose epidemic.
“Canada is currently experiencing the worst drug overdose death crisis in its history,” Boyd writes. “Given the extent of the crisis, it begs asking why possession arrests for heroin, methamphetamine, and ‘Other Drugs’ (listed by Statistics Canada as fentanyl, opioid prescriptions, etc.) are increasing across Canada.”
On March 9, the Straight reported that in response to the opioid crisis, the City of Vancouver has recommended decriminalizing all drugs, including hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The report released last week by Boyd suggests Vancouver’s police force is acting out of sync with that policy suggestion that came from city hall.
In Vancouver, arrests for heroin possession were up in 2016, albeit only slightly. There were 223 arrests last year compared to 217 in 2015.
Across B.C., there were 1,550 arrests for heroin possession compared to 1,139 in 2015. That’s an increase of 36 percent.
The report notes that for Canada as a whole, charges for drug dealing remain a minority of recorded drug crimes.
“In 2016, 73% of all drug arrests were for drug possession,” Boyd’s report notes.More