People of colour disproportionately targeted for cannabis arrests in Canada

An investigation by Vice News confirmed what many have suspected- that people of colour, particularly black and indigenous communities, face disproportionate arrests for cannabis across the country.

Based on police data obtained through freedom of information requests, racial disparities in cannabis arrests were found, showing this is an issue that even the Great White North is not immune.

According to Vice News, Regina and Halifax saw the biggest differences between cannabis arrests for minorities and white people:

Indigenous people in Regina were nearly nine times more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession than white people during that time period. Meanwhile, black people in Halifax were more than five times more likely to get arrested for possessing weed than white people.

Studies have found that people white and black Americans use cannabis at roughly the same rates, yet people of colour seem to be targeted by law enforcement, which is just one of the many failures of the War on Drugs- the continued and disproportionate criminalization of certain groups, and the Vice investigation suggests a similar trend in Canada.

That’s why cannabis records need to be either pardoned or expunged, to help correct these historic injustices that are still happening to this day. Especially now, with the country on the brink of cannabis legalization, Canada needs to do better, and while the federal government has said it is looking into granting amnesty, there is no timeline for when that might happen.

The Trudeau government has also refused to decriminalize cannabis in the three years since it was elected on a platform that included cannabis legalization, meaning that it has allowed police to continue raiding dispensaries and arresting people over a plant that will be legal in a few months.

In addition to Halifax and Regina, Vice explored the data received from the police departments of Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Ottawa, which were the only police departments the complied with all aspects of the freedom of information request.


Featured image courtesy of Cop Block.