Cannabis legalization in Canada has led to a drop in incidents between the country’s youth and its law enforcement, according to data published earlier this spring.

The findings, which were published in April in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that Canada’s five-year-old marijuana law “was associated with significant reductions in both male and female police-reported cannabis-related offenses” among citizens between the ages of 12 and 17.

Examining police data from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2021, the researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto found a rate of 4.04 daily incidents among young females, marking a 62.1% decrease, and 12.42 daily offenses among young males, which represented a reduction of 53%. 

The Cannabis Act officially took effect in Canada in October of 2018, legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults aged 18 and older.

“Results suggest that the impact of the Cannabis Act on reducing cannabis-related youth crimes is sustained, supporting the Act’s objectives to reduce cannabis-related criminalization among youth and associated effects on the Canadian criminal justice system,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. 

The researchers added that there “was no evidence of associations between cannabis legalization and patterns of property or violent crimes.”

In its write-up of the report, NORML quoted the researchers as saying the following: “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.”

The researchers said they had “previously reported that the 2018 Canadian Cannabis Act, allowing youth to possess up to 5 g dried cannabis or equivalent for personal use/sharing, was associated with short-term (76 days) post-legalization reduction in police-reported cannabis-related crimes among youth.”

The findings dovetail with another recent study, also published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, that showed that the legalization of recreational marijuana use and cannabis sales in Canada did not lead to an increase in automobile accidents. 

“[N]either the CCA [Canadian Cannabis Act] nor the NCS [number of cannabis stores per capita] is associated with concomitant changes in (traffic safety) outcomes. … During the first year of the CRUL’s [cannabis recreational use laws] implementation in Toronto, no significant changes in crashes, number of road victims and KSI [all road users killed or severely injured] were observed,” the study said. 

Another study, from 2021, produced similar results, finding “no evidence that the implementation of the Cannabis Act was associated with significant changes in post-legalization patterns of all drivers’ traffic-injury ED visits or, more specifically, youth-driver traffic-injury ED presentations.”

“Given that Canada’s Cannabis Act mandated that the Canadian Parliament review the public health consequences of the Act no later than 2023, the findings of the current study can provide empirical data not only for the Canadian evaluation of the calculus of harms and benefits, but also for other international jurisdictions weighing the merits and drawbacks of cannabis legalization policies,” that study said, as quoted by NORML.

With marijuana legalization enshrined, some in Canada have shifted their focus to the next frontier of drug reform. Earlier this year, activists launched a petition calling on lawmakers to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use. 

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