Drug Use, Arrests, Policing, and Imprisonment in Canada and BC, 2018 Report

Summary of 2018 report and addendum: September 15, 2018

Drug Use, arrests, policing, and imprisonment in Canada and BC, 2015-2016

Drug Arrests in Canada, 2017*

By Susan Boyd, PhD, for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU)

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In 2017, there were 90,625 drug arrests in Canada. In 2016, there were 95,417 arrests in Canada.

* In 2017, 42% of all drug arrests were for cannabis possession.

* In 2016, 46% of all drug arrest were for cannabis possession.

The decrease in cannabis possession arrests is in fact relatively small given that the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation report was released in November 2016 and the Cannabis Act was introduced to the House of Commons in April 2017 (the Cannabis Act will come into force in October 2018). This imminent change in the law might have been expected to decrease significantly the number of cannabis possession arrests, but that is not the case.

In addition, the overwhelmingly majority of drug arrests continue to be for drug possession. In 2017, 72% of all drug arrests were for personal possession.

Little attention has been given to the increase in possession arrests for other criminalized drugs. Canada is currently experiencing the worst illegal drug overdose death crisis in its history. Given the extent of the crisis, it begs asking why possession arrests for heroin, methamphetamine, and “Other Drugs” (listed by Statistics Canada as fentanyl, opioid prescriptions, etc.) are increasing across Canada.

* In 2017, there were 2,219 heroin possession arrests in Canada.

* In 2010, there were 464 heroin possession arrests in Canada.

* In 2017, there were 8,996 methamphetamines possession arrests in Canada.

* In 2010, there were 1,523 methamphetamines possession arrests in Canada.

The illegal drug overdose death crisis in Canada stems from drug prohibition. It is estimated that in 2017, there were 3,996 preventable drug overdose deaths across Canada, and deaths continue to rise in 2018. In response to the crisis and in order to save lives, all currently criminalized drugs (not just cannabis) should be legally regulated so that people are no longer exposed to a poisoned drug supply (adulterated drugs of unknown quality and potency sold on the illegal market). Flexible opioid and stimulant programs must be implemented immediately throughout Canada, and the police/RCMP should direct people to drug substitution programs and overdose prevention sites, rather than arresting them for drug possession. Decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs is a first step.

Open 2017 – 2018 report – DRUG ARRESTS in CANADA, 2017 – 2018 Addendum

Open 2015 – 2016 report – Drug Use, arrests, policing, and imprisonment in Canada and BC, 2015-2016

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