Article by Roberto Rocha & Verity Stevenson, CBC News
Marijuana charges are on the rise in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, while in the rest of Canada cannabis-related charges are declining ahead of Ottawa’s plans to legalize the drug.
The number of cannabis-related charges has ebbed countrywide from last year, continuing a downward trend since a peak in 2011.
For Canadians older than 12, 17,700 were charged with possession last year, according to police-reported statistics released by Statistics Canada. This is down from 21,300 in 2015.
More serious charges of trafficking were also down, while production and importation charges remained flat but relatively low.
This trend was observed across most provinces, and in many of them, the rate of charges is the lowest on record.
But Montreal and other Quebec cities have been bucking the trend. Charges for possession have been slowly going up since 1998, and are virtually unchanged from 2015.
Quebec apprehensive of legalization
Eric Sutton, a criminal defence lawyer in Montreal, said the disparity surprised him, but he has noticed concerns of the medical community and other lobby groups being aired in Quebec media more than elsewhere in the country.
“In Quebec, there has been a fairly hot debate, and that may have had an effect on policing and the attitude of prosecutors,” Sutton said. “Legalizing something doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s a legal decision, not a moral decision.”