Police-reported drug-related offences in Canada, 2013
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Police reported approximately 109,000 drug violations in 2013. The rate of drug-related offences was 310 per 100,000 population, up 13% from 2003.
Cannabis offences accounted for two-thirds of all police-reported drug offences in 2013 with cannabis possession accounting for more than half of all drug offences.
There were nearly 73,000 police-reported cannabis offences in 2013, some 80% of which were possession offences. While the rate of cannabis possession (168 per 100,000) was relatively stable compared with 2012 (167 per 100,000), it was 28% higher than it was a decade earlier (131 per 100,000) and more than double the rate in 1991 (78 per 100,000), when it was at its lowest point.
In contrast, police-reported cannabis supply offences (trafficking, importing, exporting and production) have decreased in recent years. The rate in 2013 was 35% lower than a decade earlier
The next most common type of police-reported drug offences in 2013 was cocaine-related (16% of all police-reported drug offences) as has been the case each year for more than two decades. Unlike cannabis and other illicit drugs where the majority of offences are related to possession, cocaine-related crime was more likely to involve supply offences (56% of all police-reported cocaine offences in 2013). Methamphetamines (4% of all police-reported drug offences), heroin (1%), ecstasy (less than 1%) and other banned substances (11%) made up the remainder of police-reported drug-related offences in 2013.
Just over one-quarter (26%) of all police-reported drug crime in 2013 was cleared by departmental discretion (namely, a warning or referral to a community-based program rather than a charge). This was a considerably higher proportion than for crime in general (8%). More than 4 in 10 (41%) of all cleared cannabis offences were cleared through departmental discretion, while this was the case for 17% of all other cleared drug offences.
While the overall police-reported crime rate has dropped 50% since peaking in 1991, the police-reported drug-related crime rate increased 52% over the same period.
As with police-reported crime in general, rates of police-reported drug offences vary by province and territory. Since the early 1980s, British Columbia has reported the highest rate of drug-related crime among the provinces each year, with the exception of 2012, when Saskatchewan reported a slightly higher rate. Cannabis accounted for about two-thirds (69%) of all police-reported drug offences in British Columbia in 2013, a proportion similar to that of the national level.
The trend at the provincial level was reflected among Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs), as British Columbia's four CMAs reported among the highest rates of police-reported drug offences in 2013. Kelowna, with a rate of 885 police-reported drug offences per 100,000 population in 2013, reported the highest rate among Canada's CMAs for the fourth consecutive year. Vancouver (464 per 100,000) recorded the second highest rate. Gatineau (457) and Regina (441) had the next highest rates, followed by Abbotsford–Mission (418) and Victoria (417).
Windsor, despite recording a rate of drug offences that was among the lowest of Canada's CMAs, had the highest rate of police-reported offences involving the import or export of drugs (78 per 100,000 population). This rate was about eight times higher than in Toronto (10 per 100,000), the CMA with the second highest rate of drug importing or exporting in 2013.
In 2013, persons accused of drug-related offences tended to be younger than those accused of crime in general. The median age of those accused of drug-related offences was five years younger (24 years of age compared with 29 years of age).
Cannabis-related cases between 2008/2009 and 2011/2012 accounted for the majority of completed drug-related cases in both adult criminal and youth courts. Cannabis-related cases were more likely to be stayed or withdrawn compared with cases involving other types of illicit drugs. In addition, cannabis-related cases that received a verdict of guilty less frequently involved a sentence of custody and more commonly involved fines when compared with other types of drug.
For both adults and youth, completed cases involving drugs other than cannabis were more likely to involve additional non-drug offences that are processed by the courts, while cannabis-related cases more typically involved only the cannabis-related offence.
Note to readers
This release is based on a Juristat article that uses data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey to examine short- and long-term trends in police-reported drug crime in Canada for six categories of drug: cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine (crystal meth), methylenedioxyamphetamine (ecstasy) and an "other" category comprising all other substances listed in Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Trends at the provincial, territorial and census metropolitan area levels are also explored in the article. In addition, linked data from the UCR Survey and the Integrated Criminal Court Survey are used to examine court case characteristics, sentencing outcomes, and key indicators of cases involving at least one drug-related charge in Canada's adult criminal and youth courts.
Police-reported statistics may be affected by differences in the way police services deal with minor offences. In some instances, police or municipalities might choose to deal with some minor offences using municipal by-laws or provincial provisions rather than Criminal Code provisions.
Counts are based on the most serious violation in the incident. One incident may involve multiple violations. Data for specific types of crime are available, in most cases, from 1977. Rates are calculated on the basis of 100,000 population. Percentage changes are based on unrounded rates. Populations are based on Statistics Canada's July 1 estimates.
The Juristat article "Drug-related offences in Canada, 2013" (85-002-X), is now available. From the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and justice, and Juristat.
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