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.”