According to Statistics Canada figures, the number of police-reported cannabis offenses is down for the fifth consecutive year, falling about 6,000 from 2015 to 2016, DurhamRegion.com reports. However, police in Canada still charged 17,733 people with cannabis possession in 2016.
Federal lawmakers announced plans to federally legalize cannabis use in 2016 and are currently debating regulations to govern a nationwide recreational market. The arrest rate represents a drop of about 3,600 from 2015, but simple possession still represents 76 percent of all cannabis-related charges in Canada.
In all, police reported 55,000 cannabis-related offenses in 2016. Even though federal leaders have unveiled broad legalization plans, they decided not to decriminalize simple cannabis possession in the interim.
The report showed a 7 percent increase in the number of police-reported offenses related to the illegal possession of prescription medication such as opioid-based pain-killers and “date-rape” drugs.
Statistics Canada also reported a rise in impaired driving violations of more than 10 percent, from 2,755 in 2015 to 3,098 in 2016, but police reported that 96 percent of those incidents involved alcohol.
Legal cannabis sales are expected to roll out in Canada on July 1, 2018, which will make them just the second nation – behind Uruguay – to federally permit cannabis sales to adults. According to Sept. 30 Health Canada figures, there are 98,460 registered medical cannabis patients throughout the nation.