Marijuana offences are up but Vancouver police stress they’re still soft on pot

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      The Vancouver Police Department wants you to know that it is not cracking down on marijuana.

      Chief Const. Jim Chu made a notable point of stressing that message in the VPD’s annual report for 2013.

      “One statistic that may surprise you is the increase in cannabis incidents,” Chu states there. “That number has jumped from 864 in 2012 to 1,048 last year. This does not reflect a hardening of the VPD drug policy. Our policy is and remains one that focuses on violent drug dealers who prey on marginalized and vulnerable people.”

      The report states that cannabis “offences”—which describes everything from a trafficking bust to a confiscation of a joint—went up 20 percent. Incidents involving heroin increased 48 percent and “other drugs” offences increased 18 percent. Cocaine violations were down one percent.

      In a telephone interview, Const. Brian Montague said it’s “really tough to speculate” what accounts for those spikes in drug offences.

      “We might just be seeing more drugs on the street right now, especially when it comes to cannabis,” the VPD spokesperson said. “People are becoming a little bit more open about using it.”

      Montague noted that the vast majority of those 1,048 marijuana offences were likely simple seizures that did not include officers recommending charges.

      Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer and Sensible B.C. board member, told the Straight that he found those incident numbers less interesting than Chu’s message. “The VPD, especially when it comes to cannabis offences, seems to go to great pains to point out it has not increased enforcement,” he said.

      Tousaw, an advocate for marijuana reform, noted that every offence recorded represents an expenditure of police resources.

      “There were around 1,000 incidents,” he said. “That’s a lot of man- or woman-hours that they shouldn’t have to spend.”

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      Kim S.

      Jul 9, 2014 at 12:45pm

      I can understand confiscating open bottles of liquor on public streets, public intoxication is not a pretty sight. But if someone is legitimately lighting up a marijuana cigarette because they have real medical issues that only cannabis will alleviate then I think that person should be left alone to medicate as they choose. Some of these people are so ailing that they don't have time to wait until they get home to roll one up, they need to smoke anywhere even right around the corner from the medical marijuana dispensary. I think the VPD and the general public needs to be more sympathetic when it comes to the needs of a marijuana user and have a little but of compassion.

      @Kim S

      Jul 9, 2014 at 7:25pm

      Smoke is an irritant and allergen. It is inappropriate and irresponsible to smoke in public. Except for a minority who're using it for conditions where ingestion is impossible, the responsible way to use medical marihuana is to eat it, to maintain a steady-state concentration in the blood.

      And Kudos to our crack police who decide which laws they will enforce and which they won't---dozens of illegal retail businesses in our lovely city!


      Jul 9, 2014 at 11:30pm

      Maybe because some officers use the stuff...out of uniform anyways. Thought BC would be more progressive and legalize weed before any of the States.

      @@Kim S

      Jul 10, 2014 at 11:54am

      It is simple courtesy to not smoke near other people especially if it's tobacco. Lung cancer stats have not gone up along with the increased stats of marijuana smokers, the cannabinoids are thought to be suppressing and offsetting any progression of cancers. The amount of chemicals in cigarettes are vastly more (4-6,000 toxins including some that actually alter your DNA) than in cannabis. Anybody who uses cannabis knows that smoking vs ingesting are two completely different scenarios. To suggest people just eat their weed is a comment born of ignorance (plenty of sources out there to educate yourself with). The police need to focus their attention on other much more serious crimes than someone who is merely smoking a joint. Legal or otherwise, cannabis production in BC has been a large contributor to the BC economy for at least the last 40 years. Time people woke up to this economic fact. It isn't going away.


      Jul 11, 2014 at 1:27pm

      @@@Kim S

      Yes, all good points, but it's also simple courtesy not to fire up a joint on the street too.

      For years, people (even me under my god help me real name) have been advocating decriminalization of weed on the basis of fairness - that the stuff, while not exactly a health food, is clearly no worse than beer and should be regulated appropriately.

      Getting baked on the street looks no better to me than getting liquoured up on the street, and because the smell carries, it's arguably worse. It's exactly the wrong branding for the product that we want to be legal. It says: "hey, this is the past-time for lazy, useless people, cuz we'z gettin high at ten in the morning yo!"

      For the goddess's sake, go home first. Then roll one up.