By / June 15, 2023

Cannabis Legalization Decreased Police Youth Incidents in Canada

The legalization of cannabis in Canada has led to decreased incidents between the country’s youth and law enforcement, according to data published in early spring.

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Decreased Cannabis-Related Offenses Among Canadian Youth

The findings, published in April in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, show that the Canadian cannabis law, which has been in effect for five years, “has been associated with a significant reduction in cannabis-related offenses reported by the police, both among males and females,” among citizens aged 12 to 17.

By examining police data between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2021, researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto found a rate of 4.04 daily incidents among young females, representing a decrease of 62.1%, and 12.42 daily offenses among young males, representing a reduction of 53%.

The cannabis law officially came into effect in Canada in October 2018, legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults aged 18 and older.

Positive Impact on Youth Criminalization and Justice System

“The results suggest that the impact of the Cannabis Act on the reduction of cannabis-related crimes among youth is strong, supporting the law’s goals to reduce the criminalization of cannabis among youth and its associated effects on the Canadian criminal justice system,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

The researchers added that there was “no evidence of an association between cannabis legalization and patterns of property crimes or violent crimes.”

In their report, the researchers wrote, “The Cannabis Act has been associated with sustained and substantial reductions of approximately 50% to 60% in national trends of cannabis-related criminal incidents among young males and females reported by police over about three years following legalization… Given that encounters with the police and the Canadian criminal justice system for cannabis-related criminal incidents represent significant social and individual harm to youth, it is reasonable to conclude that our findings demonstrate a benefit associated with implementing the Cannabis Act.”

The researchers stated that they had “previously reported that the 2018 Canadian Cannabis Act, allowing youth to possess up to 5 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent for personal/use sharing, was associated with short-term (76-day) post-legalization reductions in police-reported cannabis-related crimes among youth.”

Consistent Findings with Road Safety and Public Health

The results align with another recent drug study, also published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which showed that the legalization of cannabis in Canada did not increase road accidents.

“Neither the CCA [Canadian Cannabis Act] nor the CSC [cannabis store count] are associated with concomitant changes in outcomes (related to road safety)… During the first year of CRUL [recreational cannabis use law] implementation in Toronto, no significant changes were observed in crashes, road casualties, and KSI [all road users killed or seriously injured],” the study states.

No Evidence of Association with Crimes

Another study conducted in 2021 yielded similar results, finding “no evidence that the implementation of the cannabis law was associated with significant changes in post-legalization patterns of emergency department visits for road trauma by all drivers or, more specifically, presentations to emergency departments for road trauma by young drivers.”

“As the Canadian Cannabis Act requires the Canadian Parliament to examine the consequences of the law on public health no later than 2023, the results of this study may provide empirical data not only for the Canadian evaluation of harm and benefit calculus but also for other international jurisdictions assessing the merits and drawbacks of cannabis legalization policies,” the study indicates.

(Featured illustration by Harrison Haines via Pexels)

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