December 1st, 2017
Marijuana charges have been occurring increasingly in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, even though the rest of Canada has been seeing a steady decline in cannabis-related charges.
For Canadians over the age of 12, 17,700 were charged with possession last year alone. This number is down from the 21,300 charged just two years ago, in 2015.
Even the more serious trafficking charges are in decline, while production and import charges remained level. This trend has been seen across a variety of provinces, and in a majority of them, we are seeing record-low charge rates. But for some reason, Montreal and other Quebec cities have been evading the trend and going their own course. Charges have been on the rise, steadily increasing since 1998.
Eric Sutton, a Montreal-based criminal defense lawyer, said he was surprised by the discrepancy. He also said that he had noticed concerns of the medical community and other lobby groups being aired in Quebec media, more than any other places in the country.
“In Quebec, there has been a fairly hot debate, and that may have influenced policing and the attitude of prosecutors,” Sutton stated. “Legalizing something doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s a legal decision, not a moral decision.”
Sutton also mentioned that prosecutors usually consider somebodies prior criminal record, along with other factors to determine whether charges are pursued or left alone.
He said the drive to legalize “reflects an understanding that so many people use marijuana and, like it or not, it’s probably here to stay.” President of the Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis said that “In certain police districts, the fading number of charges may be a question of resources and capacity.” He also mentioned that police have not targeted simple possession “for years now.”
Stamatakis stated, “The focus is on high-level trafficking, organized crime, and other related activities that are more serious. And it have a bigger impact on the community.”
Later saying, “I would anticipate that police forces are redirecting priorities on the basis that marijuana will become legal in the near future.”
It’s not clear whether or not Montreal police are actually doing that.
Montreal Coun. Alex Norris stated, “There’s a much bigger market here, there’s much more activity, more grow-ops, just as a percentage of criminality.” He was speculating on what could cause the discrepancy. That he thought to be pretty interesting.
Alex is a member of Montreal’s public safety commission. And, he plans to ask police Chief Philippe Pichet about the topic at the commissions next formal gathering.
Historically, Quebec police have been more lenient and tolerant when it comes to cannabis possession, compared to other provinces. In 1998, there was an average of 53 people charged with possession per 100,000 in the province. Canada’s rate at the time was 76.
The rate in Quebec has been rising steadily ever since, following right behind the Canadian trend. However, still recording lower every year up until now.
Blog Publish Date: 10-16-2017