Counting Charges: Marijuana in Northern Ontario

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When it comes to weed the United States has been far more progressive than Canada.

To date 23 states in the US have legalized the use of medical marijuana and two states- Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012.

Possession of marijuana for recreational purposes in any province of Canada is illegal. However, medical use of marijuana is regulated. A prescription is required to possess medical marijuana and a permit to grow for personal medical use or to produce for medical distribution is required through Health Canada.

According to Health Canada statistics in 2013, there were 5,392 Canadians that indicated they access dried marijuana and/or marijuana seeds for medical purposes. However, it is estimated that 500,000 people use marijuana for medical purposes and acquire it illegally.

In Ontario during that same year, 8,649 individuals were authorized to possess medical marijuana, 5,048 held a personal-use production licenses and 651 held a designated-person production licence (a person permitted to produce marijuana for a person authorized to possess).

On October 29th, just one week before Oregonians will vote yes or no on Measure 91, a group of thirty law enforcers inclusive of judges, police officers and attorneys released a statement in support of the bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana.

In summary, Oregon’s Measure 91 would allow adults 21 years and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and up to one ounce in public, and to grow no more than four marijuana plants per household. The Measure would also direct the Oregon Liquor Commission to establish a system of strictly regulated and registered marijuana producers, wholesalers, processors, and retailers.

In their open letter Oregon law enforcement state, “Treating marijuana as a crime has failed. Arresting and citing thousands of people in Oregon and elsewhere for marijuana related crimes is a distraction to law enforcement and a misuse of taxpayer resources. The time and money spent should go to make our communities safer. Police resources should be focused on violent criminals, thieves and criminal cartels.”

Sergeant Carolle Dionne of the North East Region Ontario Provincial Police indicated that resources applied to sniffing out marijuana are part of a bigger picture. “We’re not necessarily targeting someone who has a few joints on them. We come across possession of marijuana in our everyday duties – that’s the easy part. You’re doing a traffic stop and it’s in clear view- you get a lot of that. That’s why you see increased charges for possession of marijuana – because it’s easier. Trafficking and production are bigger and more intricate operations.”

According to Dionne the significant concern with marijuana grow-ops is that the product can be used for bartering. “Enforcement is really concerned with the more complex issue of trafficking and production. It is part of a larger trading system where some growers of marijuana in Canada are exchanging their product with other countries for opium or other hard drugs.”

It is unknown if pot cupcakes have been baked and exchanged in such barters.

Northern Ontario: Charges of Marijuana

The following information was prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police and Sault Ste. Marie Police. Please note, the statistics below represent charges, not convictions.

North East Region
Possession
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 163 190 174 180 707
2013 152 202 200 140 694
2014 165 206 187 42 600
Totals 480 598 561 362 2001
Trafficking
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 41 37 23 58 159
2013 33 45 41 21 140
2014 28 30 17 6 81
Totals 102 112 81 85 380
Production
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 7 17 41 15 80
2013 11 13 39 11 74
2014 5 4 21 2 32
Totals 23 34 101 28 186
North West Region  
Possession
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 121 138 108 102 469
2013 101 139 120 107 467
2014 99 158 119 19 395
Totals 321 435 347 228 1331
Trafficking
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 26 12 12 11 61
2013 8 11 19 26 64
2014 21 14 15 2 52
Totals 55 37 46 39 177
Production
Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
2012 0 2 9 2 13
2013 1 2 8 1 12
2014 1 0 4 0 5
Totals 2 4 21 3 30
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Year 2011 2012 2013 2014
Possession 53 56 59 26
Trafficking 21 19 18 9
Production 3 5 3 1

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