Despite nationwide legalization drawing nearer with each passing day, law enforcement in one Canadian province doesn’t yet seem to be entirely on board with the changes that are happening in the country. In Quebec, and most specifically Montreal, cannabis-related arrests are actually on the rise. This might not necessarily be so surprising, if not for the fact that these figures are not reflected in the other reaches of Canada.
Since 2011, the nationwide amount of cannabis-related arrests has been in a downward trend, with 17,700 individuals being charged with related crimes last year. This is a decrease from 2015’s 21,300 arrests. Additionally, charges related to more severe crimes like drug trafficking have gone down. Production and importation charges remained fairly level, but still relatively low.
These changes were present across most provinces, many of which were witnessing their lowest numbers on record. Several cities in Quebec are defying this trend, however, with cannabis-related arrests actually increasing since 1998.
“In Quebec, there has been a fairly hot debate, and that may have had an effect on policing and the attitude of prosecutors,” says Eric Sutton, a Montreal-based criminal defense attorney, “Legalizing something doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s a legal decision, not a moral decision.”
Still, Sutton was surprised to find out about this disparity, stating that nationwide legalization “reflects an understanding that so many people use marijuana and, like it or not, it’s probably here to stay.”
Marc-Boris St-Maurice of the Montreal Compassion Centre has also expressed disappointment with this information. He stated that the provincial government “is a lot more afraid of marijuana in Quebec.… We think we’re all so open, but I guess these numbers here show that it’s not always the case.”
In 2016, an average of 73 out of 100,000 Montreal residents was arrested on cannabis-related charges. The number increased to 76 out of 100,000 in Quebec overall. This is notably higher than the average 56 out of 100,000 that averages throughout the nation of Canada.
Photo by szeke