With Arrests Declining, Police Chase Cannabis Users

BEYOND PROHIBITION – Arrests are down across Canada this year and have been declining steadily for the past five years. However, a large chunk of Canadian society is actually being arrested at record levels. Thieves? Nope. Violent predators? Not them either. The group being targeted by police and arrested at all-time highs are those nefarious cannabis users.

You know, the guy that smokes a joint instead of cracking a beer at the end of a hard day of work. The mother of three that has a few puffs to relax after a day of chasing young ones around the house. The cancer survivor that uses cannabis to relieve pain and allow her to eat.

These “criminals” are the ones that police seem bent on busting for simple possession – an offence that reached a 30-year record levels of arrests in 2007 and, amazingly, increased by 5% more in 2008 to 50,145 arrests.

“It’s shocking, really,” said Kirk Tousaw, Executive Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation. “Arrests are falling across the board and yet arrests for simple possession have never been higher. Every one of the 50,000 people arrested is going to have their life harmed more by the arrest than by their cannabis use. We’ve known this since Le Dain in 1971. I can’t fathom why, with arrests down, police appear to be targeting simple possession. I would hope that they have better things to do with their time.”

Every study conducted on the issue of cannabis policy has recommended that people stop being arrested for simple possession. The most recent comprehensive study, conducted by a Special Committee of the Senate in 2002, concluded unanimously that the best policy for Canada would be to legalize and regulate the plant. Even the Supreme Court of Canada, while agreeing that Parliament was entitled to criminalize cannabis users, found that it was a relatively benign substance that, for the vast majority of users, caused little or no long-term harms.

“It seems from media reports that we are in the midst of historic gang violence and police are in dire need of more resources” said Jacob Hunter, Policy Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation pointed out, “yet here we have proof that the police are focusing their scarce resources not on violent crime, not on gang crime, but on simple marijuana possession. I think most Canadians expect arresting marijuana users to be the lowest police priority, not the highest.”

The Beyond Prohibition Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to the repeal of cannabis prohibition and its replacement with a legal, regulated system of control.