Manitobans net hundreds of cannabis offences since legalization

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One year after recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, Manitoba RCMP have started to see more Criminal Code investigations related to driving while high — but it's still too early to tell what's behind the increase, said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

Overall, from when cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018, to Wednesday, there have been 329 pot-related charges laid by Mounties in Manitoba. Of these, 224 were for unlawful transportation of cannabis in a vehicle, while 19 were for consuming it in a vehicle. 

Another 56 were handed out for cannabis-related offences under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act, and 30 were cannabis-related Criminal Code investigations for impaired driving — with several more still pending toxicology results.

There is no direct comparison to pre-legalization numbers available for these charges because the laws didn't exist prior to legalization, Manaigre said.

"We have seen an increase in cannabis related Criminal Code impaired investigations, however at this point it is hard to tell if it is the result of legalization, or if the result of new enforcement tools introduced (i.e. ability to conduct blood draws, additional [standardized field sobriety test] training sessions) — or a combination of both," Manaigre said in an email.

Nowhere near alcohol offences

Despite the increase, cannabis-related charges laid by RCMP still fall far below those given out for alcohol-related offences.

During the same time period, 444 charges for unlawful transportation of liquor in a vehicle were given out in Manitoba, and 244 were laid for other liquor-related provincial offences, including public consumption, under the Highway Traffic Act and the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act.

Another 1,403 people were charged with alcohol-related driving infractions under the Criminal Code.

A spokesperson for the provincial government said Manitoba has been tracking some statistics on the number of cannabis-related offences since non-medical use was legalized last fall. 

As of Aug. 31, a total of 584 provincial offences related to cannabis had been received by the courts. Provincial charges would include unauthorized sales or possessions, consuming or transporting cannabis in a vehicle, supplying it to a young person or smoking it in a public place or provincial park.

Nationally, Manitoba ranks low

On the national stage, Manitoba was responsible for relatively few of the cannabis-related offences given out in 2018 (more recent numbers are not yet available).

Of 34,441 cannabis-related violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act last year, 660 were in Manitoba, according to Statistics Canada. The bulk of the charges nationally and provincially were for possession, with 26,194 cases in Canada and 439 in Manitoba.

Of the 1,454 violations of the newer Cannabis Act across the country, only 32 were in Manitoba. The most common offences nationwide were importation and exportation of cannabis (with 302 cases) and possession of illicit cannabis or over 30 grams of dried cannabis by an adult (with 264 offences).

In Manitoba, the most common offences were possession of cannabis for the purpose of distributing (with 10 cases) and possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling (with nine cases).

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