Cannabis Charges Are Up in Quebec Despite Decrease Across Canada

It may seem ridiculous for marijuana-related prosecution in Canada to exist ahead of national legalization, but it is a reality nevertheless.

In 2016, 17,700 people were arrested and charged for obtaining a product that will be on store shelves in 11 months.

This week, Statistics Canada released data on cannabis offenses, finding that national marijuana arrests declined by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016. Oddly enough, since 1998, the number of arrests has steadily risen in Quebec.

In an interview with the CBC, Montreal criminal defense lawyer Eric Sutton said there have been concerns from the medical community and other lobby groups being aired in the French province. “In Quebec, there has been a fairly hot debate, and that may have had an effect on policing and the attitude of prosecutors,” said Sutton.

Quebec’s apprehension towards legalization has surprised many who thought the province would welcome cannabis legislation with open arms. This astonishment included Alain Giguère, the President of CROP, a polling firm based in Montreal.

The results of a poll conducted by the firm were released in May, showing that only 40 percent of Quebecers were strongly or somewhat in favour of cannabis legalization compared to 58 percent of other Canadians who were in favour. “My hypothesis was the opposite,” said Giguère. “I thought Quebec would be more tolerant.”

In 2016, an average of 76 per 100,000 people in Quebec were charged with cannabis possession, while the rate in the rest of the country was 56 per 100,000.

Despite the bucking of the trend in Quebec, police across the rest of Canada are focusing their attention on more important priorities such as high-level trafficking and organized crime.

The desire for the decriminalization of cannabis in Canada ahead of legalization has been a hot-button issue for many across the country. The Trudeau government has received extreme criticism from all sides for allowing possession arrests to continue, despite his determination to legalize cannabis.

Photo courtesy of Caribb


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