The Vancouver police department has told the federal government that it will not prioritize enforcement of the new medicinal marijuana laws at the expense of other pressing issues.
The new law will make it illegal to grow pot for personal medicinal use, forcing those who currently grow their own to buy from government approved growers.
The Vancouver police department has always focused its attention on violent drug traffickers and gang members in the city, shifting the issue of medical pot shops to the back burners.
Even as new marijuana laws come into effect Apr. 1, the department will keep its eye focused on issues that pose the greatest danger to society – namely gang violence.
Police Chief Jim Chu says Vancouver is not a wide open city for the marijuana trade and police do not take action unless there is a threat to public safety, the Canadian Press reports.
Medical marijuana dispensaries are currently illegal and will remain illegal under the new laws. Changes will be applied to the approved methods of marijuana production. The present laws allow anyone with a marijuana prescription to either grow their own or to purchase it from designated growers such as Health Canada; new laws will make it illegal to produce your own, forcing all users to use government approved distributors.
Drug and gang violence
Drug crime rates in British Columbia have remained among the highest in Canada for 30 years. According to reports from the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, 2007 drug crime rates in British Columbia (654 incidents per 100,000) were more than double the rates in Saskatchewan, the next highest province.
Statistics Canada also reported in 2008 that Vancouver’s gun-related violent crime was higher than any other major metropolitan region in Canada.
Vancouver’s rate of violence involving guns was 45.3 per 100,000, only slightly higher than Toronto at 40.4 but far above the national average of 27.5.
Gang related homicides increased overall across Canada in 2010. Police considered 94 homicides to be gang-related, accounting for 17 per cent of all homicides reported to police.
Although national rates increased, British Columbia saw a 31 per cent drop in homicides in 2010, which marked the province’s lowest point since mid-1960s.
Operating gangs in Vancouver
There are four major gangs that operate from British Columbia. The Hells Angels is the highest-level gang, known by police as a top-echelon criminal organization.
Other mid-level gangs such as the Red Scorpions and the United Nations contribute to the violence as well, and much of it is carried out between the gangs themselves.
New contenders include the Independent Soldiers, a group made up mostly of Indo-Canadian young males involved in the drug trade.