…we regret to inform you that Canada is no longer cool.
The number of people arrested for smoking pot rose dramatically in several Canadian cities last year after the Conservatives took office and killed a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
The spike in arrests for simple possession of cannabis appears in data compiled by The Canadian Press from municipal police forces through interviews and Access to Information Act requests.
National statistics will be released next week, but preliminary figures suggest the number of arrests jumped by more than one-third in several Canadian cities.
Several police officials say the trend is linked directly to that aborted legislation, which died as a result of the federal election on Jan. 23, 2006.
Some forces simply stopped laying simple possession charges after the Liberals introduced the decriminalization bill under Jean Chrétien in 2003, said Terry McLaren, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Everybody was waiting for what was going to happen. … There’d be no use clogging up the court system with that decriminalization bill there. When that was defeated, I’d say it was business as usual.”
The number of people charged plunged from 26,882 in 2002 and remained relatively steady, below 19,000, for the three years that decriminalization was being debated in Parliament.
But police say many pot smokers, especially younger ones, appear unaware that the bill didn’t pass.
So even if marijuana consumption remains as illegal in Canada as it has been since 1923, police say some people are toking more boldly than they’ve ever toked before, which makes it easier to arrest them.
“You’d have a youth smoking a joint out on the street without any fear of being caught,” said Toronto police Det. Doug McCutcheon.
Ok, at least SSM has been permanently enshrined in Canadian law. That’s something we can cling to with pride. Just remember: be careful when sparking that post-nuptial doobie.
(OT: A big Bastardly shout out to Melissa @ Shakesville. We are truly tickled a bright shade of pink.)
Update 07/11 : Apparently Canadian tokers have yet to receive the memo:
The 2007 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has found that Canadians use marijuana four times more than any other developed country, with 16.8 per cent of those between the ages of 15 and 64 having used cannabis at least once in 2006.
The world average is 3.8 per cent.
Update 07/14: Deja vu all over again:
A Toronto judge has ruled that Canada’s pot possession laws are unconstitutional after a man argued the country’s medicinal marijuana regulations are flawed.
In court, the man argued that the federal government only made it policy to provide marijuana to those who need it, but never made it an actual law. Because of that, he argued, all possession laws, whether medicinal or not, should be quashed.
The judge agreed and dismissed the charges.
“The government told the public not to worry about access to marijuana,” said Judge Howard Borenstein. “They have a policy but not law.… In my view that is unconstitutional.”
Defence lawyer Brian McAllister, who represented the man, said the ramifications of the ruling have potential to be “pretty big.”