British Columbia

Kelowna RCMP say they aren't targeting casual pot smokers

People in Kelowna were charged with marijuana possession at a higher rate than any other city in the country last year, according to Statistics Canada.

Kelowna had the highest rate of people charged with marijuana possession in Canada

Kelowna topped the list of 34 Canadian cities for the highest per capita rate of marijuana possession charges in 2014. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

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.

Statistics Canada found that 39% of pot possession incidents led to charges in Canada. (CBC News Graphics)

Costing taxpayers

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. 

(CBC News Graphics)
(CBC News Graphics)
(CBC News Graphics)

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Kelowna RCMP say they aren't targetting casual pot smokers on the CBC's Daybreak South. 

With files from Brady Strachan


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