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Fewer Incidents Between Youth And Police Following Canadian Legalization

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An area of top concern for both cannabis supporters and opponents alike is youth safety. Of course, what motivates each side’s concerns, the talking points used, and the predictions of what the future holds in a post-reform world differ greatly between the two sides, but at the most basic level, everyone should agree that youth safety is important.

Arguably the most popular talking point for cannabis opponents is that, so they claim, if cannabis is legalized for adult use then there will be a spike in youth consumption at levels never seen before in human history, and the consequences of such will be nothing short of catastrophic.

Unfortunately for those opponents, and fortunately for the rest of us that live in reality, such spikes in youth consumption have yet to materialize where cannabis has been legalized. Furthermore, in Canada specifically, there have been fewer recorded incidents between youth and law enforcement following national legalization. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

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.