The cannabis offence rate in Ottawa’s capital ward almost doubled in 2013 compared to 2012, according to an analysis of Ottawa police reported crime data.
Sgt. Jeff Pilon of the Ottawa Police Drug Unit said this might be the result of the shifting Canadian attitude towards marijuana possession.
The cause was definitely not due to increased enforcement, he said. “We work all across the city and we do have targeted areas but we haven’t had any there.”
The hike is most likely then, the result of more people committing cannabis offences in the Capital ward, he said.
According to a poll commissioned by the federal Justice Department earlier this year, 70 per cent of Canadians want to see the current marijuana laws become more relaxed, at the very least, and one-in-three back full legalization.
Click the play buttons below to hear what residents of the Capital ward had to say about marijuana possession.
Bill Singleton, retired.
Cynthia Scoop, public servant.
Frans Verenicen, Crane operator.
Hannah Smith, Carleton University Student.
John Bert, Public Servant.
Here is a breakdown by ward of cannabis offence rate changes in 2013.
In Ottawa, there are more than 1,000 police-reported cannabis offences and out of those, 67 were in the Capital ward. These numbers are small compared to Ottawa’s top criminal offence – thefts of $5,000 and under – which stand at approximately 12,000 this year. Still, Ottawa’s cannabis offence rate is on the rise and Capital ward had the sharpest increase in pot arrests. The map below shows the percent change by ward. Criminal defence lawyer Paul Lewin said he is shocked with the high increase of Capital ward’s cannabis offense rate. “I would think that a fairly urban Ottawa ward would have more serious matters to concern themselves with,” said Lewin who is also the Ontario Regional Director of Norml Canada, an organization advocating for the reform of marijuana laws. Offences related to cannabis possession are victimless, he said.
“These are not victim offences where someone was raped or someone was beaten up.” As we approach next year’s federal election, legalization of marijuana has become a heated debate. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, made legalization one of his campaign priorities. And as Canadians move closer to casting their ballots, the legalization debate will intensify further. Lewin said legalization would free up police resources to pursue other criminal activity.
“Huge police manpower goes into investigating marijuana offences.” It’s also a waste of money, said Lewin. “When I show up for the first day of a marijuana trial, let’s say it’s three days or four days long, it’s common for me to see a dozen or 14 or 16 cops all standing around in suits, and they are all getting paid at a very lucrative rate, waiting to be called as witnesses.”
Just a year ago, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police proposed a ticketing option for simple possession cases, saying that the procedure of sending cases to criminal court was straining the justice system. According to a 2013 report by Statistics Canada, over the past decade, there’s an increase in police-reported drug offences. The debate for and against legalizing marijuana continues to rage and will become more prominent to Canadians as we reach next year’s federal election.
Report by Statistics Canada on police-reported crimes in Canada 2013: