The Canadian Bar Association
Criminal

As crime rate decreases, charges for illegal substances rise

By Joseph Neuberger

As the Canadian government seeks to change laws surrounding marijuana usage, statistics show that police officers are increasingly cracking down on pot and other drugs. The police-reported crime rate in Canada has been on steady decline since its peak in 1991. However, Statistics Canada reports that police-reported charges related to illegal substances have been on the rise during this period.

Drug charges increased 52 per cent between 1991 and 2013 across Canada. Marijuana possession accounted for one-half of all drug charges in 2013, with two-thirds of drug-related offences being pot related. In all, about one in 20 incidents police reported in 2013 were related to illegal substances. Approximately half of all completed cases involving marijuana had no other charges. Toronto ranked lower in the laying of drug offences compared to other urban areas in Ontario and Canada.

Police in Toronto and other areas use discretion when it comes to marijuana charges. However, once an individual is charged, he or she may be in police databases for a long time. Subsequent charges can come with hefty penalties, and police watch repeat offenders closely.

These statistics echo what is often understood about drug charges in Ontario and throughout the country. Despite its widespread use and some police discretion, charges for marijuana possession and other illegal substances are on the rise. Being charged under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act can lead to a permanent place in police databases, making a person more vulnerable in the future. Criminal lawyers in Toronto and the rest of Canada are well aware of these issues and are an important tool for Canadians who are facing charges like these.

Source: The Toronto Star, "Canada's crime rate is falling — but drug charges are rising" Jim Rankin, July 7, 2017

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