The soaring costs of policing pot

Download Professor Neil Boyd’s study into marijuana possession
enforcement in British Columbia: 

New study shows high costs of enforcing marijuana possession in BC

Criminology Professor Neil Boyd has released a study which analyzes the costs and outcomes of enforcement against marijuana possession in BC.

The study, funded by the Sensible BC campaign, shows that BC spends much more per capita to police and charge marijuana users than does any other province.

Icon: Possession charges have doubled“The rate of marijuana use in BC is fairly close to that in other provinces,” said Boyd. “7% of British Columbians used marijuana in the past week, compared to a national average of 6%. However, the rate of marijuana offenses reported by police in BC is far higher than that of any other province, and almost double that of the national average.”

“RCMP have been laying more possession charges across Canada since 2005,” said Boyd, “with a 30% increase since that time. But in BC the increase has been the greatest of the provinces, with charges for marijuana possession more than doubling in BC in six years. This increase does not include Vancouver, where possession charges have declined as a direct result of VPD policy.”

The study shows that considerable RCMP resources are used to enforce cannabis possession in BC.

“There were 16,578 police reports of marijuana possession in BC in 2011,” said Boyd, “and 3774 of those led to charges. About 1200 British Columbians were convicted of marijuana possession in 2011. Our research shows that this all costs BC taxpayers about $10.5 million dollars a year.”

court and police costs rising“The picture that emerges from our research is one of enforcement without any consistency or purpose,” said Boyd. “There is no clear logic applied in relation to the decision to detain, to confiscate, to charge or to convict, outside of a consistent pattern of either use in public, or use in relation to a motor vehicle. The decision with respect to who will then be charged appears to amount to a rather arbitrary use of discretion”.

“The brunt of cannabis prohibition in BC falls upon the user,” said Boyd. “91% of all cleared cannabis offences are possession offences.”

“This study shows the need to reform how we deal with marijuana and marijuana possession in BC,” said Dana Larsen, Director of the Sensible BC campaign which commissioned the study. “The vast majority of British Columbians don’t think possession of marijuana should be a criminal offence, but the RCMP here are on their own crusade, blowing ever-increasing amounts of taxpayers money on their failed war against pot smokers.”

“The Sensible Policing Act would put an end to this,” said Larsen, referring to the legislation being promoted for a referendum by the Sensible BC campaign. “Passing this law would save BC taxpayers at least $10.5 million a year, and let the RCMP focus their resources on real crimes.”

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