Kelowna RCMP say they aren't targeting casual pot smokers
Kelowna had the highest rate of people charged with marijuana possession in Canada
Recreational pot smokers aren't the reason Kelowna leads the country for marijuana possession charges, according to RCMP.
Newly released figures from Statistics Canada show Kelowna had 251 charges per 100,000 people, while the national average was 79.
"We target people who are prolific offenders in our community. That small group who is responsible for the majority of crime.
"We target people who frequent our crime hot spots and people involved in the drug trade," said Superintendent Nick Romanchuk with Kelowna RCMP.
He said focusing on the high-profile offenders is lowering the city's crime rate.
"I believe what we are doing is very effective," he said, "by increasing drug enforcement able to reduce overall crime in the community, which we have done."
"When somebody is removed from the community, they can't commit crime in that community," said Romanchuk.
But one local academic thinks the marijuana crackdown is a poor use of resources.
"It costs taxpayers and citizens a whole lot," said Zach Walsh, a professor of Psychology at UBC Okanagan.
"A whole lot of money for policing and disability for people who are no longer able to take advantage of opportunities because they have a criminal record," he said.
Walsh thinks it is a shame that Kelowna tops the list for most arrests in the country for possession of marijuana.
"I don't think going after a failed prohibition policy is the answer anywhere," said Walsh.
With files from Brady Strachan