Canada: Fewer Incidents Between Youth and Police Following Marijuana Legalization

Toronto, Canada: The legalization of the adult-use marijuana market is associated with reduced incidents between police and juveniles, according to data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers affiliated with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto analyzed police-reported incident data from the years immediately prior to and following the adoption of cannabis legalization in Canada. 

They reported that legalization “was associated with significant reductions in both male and female police-reported cannabis-related offenses” for youth ages 12 to 17. (Canadian law permits those age 18 and older to legally possess and use cannabis products.) They estimated that these reductions have led to approximately 21,000 fewer criminal interactions between police and young people in the years following nationwide legalization.

The study’s authors concluded: “The Cannabis Act was associated with sustained and substantial decreases of approximately 50 percent to 60 percent in national patterns of male and female police-reported youth cannabis-related criminal incidents over an approximate three-year post-legalization period.… Given that involvement with the police and Canadian criminal justice system for cannabis-related criminal incidents represents a major social and individual-level harm for young people, it is reasonable to conclude that our findings demonstrate a benefit associated with the implementation of the Cannabis Act.”

Full text of the study, “Canada’s cannabis legalization and police-reported cannabis-related criminal incidents among youth, 2015-2020,” appears in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.