Cannabis legalization has had little impact on Calgary crime stats, police say

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A month after legalization, cannabis has not had a significant impact on crime in Calgary, the city’s police commission heard Tuesday.

“The sky hasn’t fallen,” said Katie Doucette, the Calgary Police Service’s project manager for cannabis.

Since legalization, Calgary police have recorded five violations of the law governing cannabis use in Canada, including one illicit grow-op. The service has also written 11 tickets related to cannabis use, though Doucette said officers typically try to have a conversation before handing them out.

“Tickets were written, essentially, if conversation didn’t get it done,” she said.

The service also recorded two driver’s licence suspensions that were related to cannabis, though neither has resulted in charges — the same number as the month before legalization.

Acting Chief Steve Barlow said police haven’t laid charges yet in the impaired driving cases because roadside tests can’t reliably detect cannabis and the service is waiting on blood tests, which can take several weeks. The service hopes that more reliable cannabis roadside tests will hit the market soon, Barlow added.

“We’re waiting for them to be approved,” he said. “(The new testing devices are) where we want to spend our money and training.”

Overall, Doucette said police recorded 192 incidents that involved cannabis in the first 32 days of legalization. In those cases, cannabis wasn’t necessarily the cause or even a main factor — just noted as present, she said.

Those incidents made up 3 per cent of the service’s workload, Doucette told the commission. Police also spent just over $3 million on training and equipment to prepare officers for legalization.

One of the federal government’s rationales for legalization was that it would save police services money, as they no longer have to use resources to enforce the prohibition of cannabis, said commission chair Brian Thiessen.

“I’d like to see what those results are and track them against the cost.”


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