'Sky has not fallen': Cannabis legalization didn't impact Calgary crime in 1st month

It's still early days, but cannabis legalization has yet to have much of an impact on crime in Calgary.

But it's still in the early days, and things could change, say police

Katie Doucette, the Calgary Police Service's cannabis project manager, presents findings from the first month since legalization to the police commission. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

It's still early days, but cannabis legalization has yet to have much of an impact on crime in Calgary.

"October 17 has come and gone and the sky has not fallen," said Katie Doucette, the Calgary Police Service's project manager on cannabis, to the police commission on Tuesday.

There were two 24-hour suspensions for people who were driving under the influence of cannabis between Oct. 17 and Nov. 15 — the same as the month before legalization.

And there were 195 calls where cannabis was noted as being involved in some way.

That doesn't mean that pot was the reason for the call or that an arrest was made — it could be as simple as someone was holding a small amount of cannabis when they encountered police, or even that someone reported their cannabis as stolen.

"I think that's good news," said commission chair Brian Thiessen.

"[The numbers] were not alarming, I don't think cannabis legalization has had a significant impact on either policing efforts or societal issues."

There were five violations of the new cannabis act in Calgary since it went into effect:

  • An illicit grow up was shut down in October, which contained 1,107 plants valued at $1.3 million.
  • One charge of possession for the purpose of selling cannabis in multiple forms (like shatter, oil and edibles). 
  • One charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking, not from a licenced producer.
  • One charge of possession of cannabis and illicit drugs.
  • And one youth was found to be in possession of five grams of cannabis at school, along with other illicit drugs.

There were also 11 tickets issued for people who broke the bylaw banning public consumption — which police said were only issued if people didn't get the message from conversation to "move along."

But, police said they are starting with an education-first approach, so those numbers could go up in future. 

"I don't want to say nothing's changed … it's way too early," said Interim Chief Steve Barlow.

Over the past year, the force spent an estimated $3 million preparing for legalization. 

Thiessen said he was pleased to see the force is tracking costs, as it will allow the city to make an application to the province to recoup some of that money.

"One of the premises of legislation was it would save money … so I'd like to see what those numbers are," he said.

With files from Colleen Underwood