New research from UBC Northern Medical Program Professor Dr. Russ Callaghan found a significant reduction in police-reported youth cannabis-related offenses immediately after it was legalized in 2018.
Dr.Callaghan and his team reviewed the daily national counts of police-reported youth cannabis offenses between January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2018, which mainly comprised of cannabis possession crimes.
They found police-reported criminal incidents among Canada’s male and female youth for cannabis-related crimes dropped significantly by 55-65% immediately after it was legalized.
Dr. Callaghan says the results aren’t surprising, however, they are important.
“Two major aims of the legislation in the Cannabis Act were to prevent cannabis use and harms among youth and the other one was to reduce the cannabis-related burden on the Canadian justice system which includes policing. So I wanted to look at the relationship between cannabis legalization and cannabis-related criminal incidents among youth between the ages of 12-17,” he explained.
He says his findings provide initial evidence that supports one of the main goals of this legislation
Dr.Callaghan and his team decided to pursue this research because he found much of the current research available is focused on the negative aspects of legalizing cannabis.
“One of the things that people need to be aware of is the balance between harms and benefits of legalization and much of the research is focused on harm so emergency department visits for cannabis-related issues or traffic accidents and so forth, but this is a potential benefit in terms of reducing the burden on policing and on youth.”
He now hopes these findings will help policymakers, public health officials, and the public better gauge both the costs and benefits of cannabis legalization in Canadian society.
“Most of the available research evaluating cannabis legalization has focused on cannabis-related harms, but this current research examines the potential benefits of legalization,” he said. “The criminalization of youth for cannabis-related crimes, such as cannabis possession, puts a tremendous burden on Canadian youth and the criminal justice system.
Dr.Callaghan and his team are now conducting a follow-up study to examine the impacts of cannabis legalization on police-reported crimes over a longer 14.5-month follow-up period.
He and his team are hoping to have the results from the follow-up study available later this fall.
“My next study will assess a much longer-term impact over the following 12 months or so after this particular study and I think we will see these major reductions, not only among youth but among adults as well in cannabis-related incidents reported by police,” he explained.
The study was published in an international peer-reviewed scientific journal titled Addiction.