Crime Stats Show Cops Discriminate In Cannabis Arrests

"Nobody actually gets charged with possession anymore!"

Who hasn't heard someone make that claim? Usually over a post-dinner glass of wine - maybe after a couple tokes.

But as jurisdictions across North America ostensibly relax approaches to weed, new data from the FBI and the Canadian RCMP indicates it's a myth that police are turning a blind eye to cannabis possession.

Only it kind of depends on where you live.

The FBI's 2014 crime report indicated 14 percent of US arrests were drug-related, with simple marijuana possession accounting for about 40 percent of those arrests. But the vast majority in the U.S. took place in low-income neighbourhoods - with black Americans 3.73 times more likely to get busted than whites according to the ACLU. While it's impossible to determine the precise criteria used by law enforcement, it's alarming that whites comprised just 8% of New York marijuana arrests in 2014.

In Canada, enforcement of possession laws also remains wildly inconsistent - albeit with a less-apparent racial bias. According to CBC's ranking of pot charges in 34 Canadian cities, Kelowna, British Columbia, reported the highest rate of marijuana-related busts at 251 per 100,000 people. St. John's, Nfld., had the lowest rate with just 11 charges per 100,000 people. Such staggering disparities existed across the country, calling into question the priority individual law-enforcement agencies set on pot regulations.

The bottom line? In the rapidly-shifting cultural landscape surrounding marijuana, it's next to impossible to determine what the legal consequences might be, if any, if you're caught.

Retired Winnipeg police detective Bill VanderGraaf told CBC the uneven rate of laying charges is, obviously, a problem.

"We have to have consistency in something we're calling a crime. If there's not going to be consistency across this country then let's not call it a crime anymore. Let's control and regulate it," he said.

In the meantime: doesn't matter what side of the border you're on. You might want to hold off on blowing smoke in the face of law enforcement just yet.

h/t Vocativ, Newsweek, CBC


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