Police Enforcement of Cannabis Possession Laws in Canada: Changes in Implementation by Street-Level Bureaucrats
D'Eon, Marc 1986-
Criminal law in Canada is established by the federal government, and should therefore be applied equally across the country. However, the nature of independent police departments in every jurisdiction can result in the uneven application of the law. Evidence suggests that cannabis possession laws are one such example. Although cannabis has been illegal in Canada since 1923, some police departments appear to have de facto changed cannabis possession criminalization through reduced enforcement rates. The set of circumstances unique to this situation – the lack of a central political actor and the decentralized nature of the enforcement by police officers – results in a new mechanism by which policy outcomes can change, namely implementation conversion. Specifically, this thesis attempts to answer two research questions: (1) is implementation conversion in the enforcement of cannabis laws taking place across jurisdictions in Canada, and (2) is there equal enforcement across jurisdictions over time, and if not, what are some of the factors that affect police officers’ decisions to charge an individual for a drug crime? To this end, a charge rate was calculated with data from Statistics Canada for four different drug offenses to determine the likelihood that a police officer in a particular jurisdiction would charge an individual for a drug offense. Data from 49 jurisdictions over a 16-year period were used to run the analysis. A graphical and regression analysis of the four dependent variables was undertaken. The data showed a significant decline in the enforcement of cannabis possession over time across nearly all jurisdictions; this decline was not found in the enforcement of the other three drug offenses that were examined (specifically, cannabis trafficking, distribution and production (TDP), cocaine possession, and cocaine TDP). Among the variables that were examined as factors affecting cannabis possession charge rates, provincial dummy variables and the type of police force (e.g., RCMP, municipal) were found to be statistically significant. The findings in this thesis reveal the influence that street-level bureaucrats have in determining the implementation of legislation.
DegreeMaster of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteePohler, Dionne; Beland, Daniel; Garcea, Joe; Mou, Haizhen
Copyright DateMay 2018