Marijuana possession charges drop significantly in Calgary

Calgary's overall crime rate was down one per cent in 2016, with violent crime dropping three per cent, according to national statistics released on Monday. Also way down: marijuana possession charges.

Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin said the change isn't due to a shift in policy on the drug

Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin says there has been no change to views on marijuana in the force, despite a reduction in charges. (Mark Matulis/CBC)

Calgary's overall crime rate was down one per cent in 2016, with violent crime dropping three per cent, according to national statistics released on Monday. 

Also way down: marijuana possession charges. 

Only 186 adults were charged for carrying the soon-to-be legalized drug in Calgary in 2016, down from 276 in 2015 and 337 in 2014. 

Arrests for possession were down 20 per cent from 2015. 

The decline follows a national trend. According to the statistics, police across the country charged 17,733 people with the possession of pot last year, a drop of about 3,600 from 2015.

Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin says he's not sure why there was such a drop in Calgary, speculating officers might be focusing on other drugs. 

Arrests for marijuana possession are way down in Calgary, as are charges for possession. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

"I think there has likely been some heavy focus on opioids, on methamphetamine. Cocaine is still a relevant drug in this city. And I think some of that limitations of our efforts are likely focused elsewhere right now," he said. 

Chaffin said the drop is not the result of a change in policy. 

"The message is marijuana is an illegal drug, it has always been and will maintain that status until such time as it's been changed," he said. "So we'll treat it that way."

With files from Scott Dippel