The federal agency responsible for prosecuting most drug crimes in Canada doesn't keep track of cases by the drugs involved, and there isn't yet national data that shows how Canada's recent cannabis laws are being enforced and prosecuted.
The Free Press made inquiries to all chief federal prosecutors across Canada.
In response to a Free Press inquiry, the media relations branch of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said the department doesn't track cannabis-related prosecutions, but the information is expected to be eventually available through Statistics Canada and the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
As of Friday, while separate inquiries to each chief federal prosecutor across Canada had generated several responses, they had returned data only from Manitoba, which has seen about 11 Cannabis Act cases since Oct. 17, and from Yukon, which has seen zero.
Manitoba Justice also said it doesn't track the number of cannabis-related provincial offences, and the Winnipeg Police Service said it doesn't track the number of cannabis-related charges its officers have laid.
Comprehensive data is necessary to track the effects of cannabis laws in Canada, lawyer Caryma Sa’d said.
"There’s so much importance in data. Especially with cannabis historically, the way it’s been policed and criminalized, it’s disproportionately affected marginalized groups the most, so it surprises me and it’s a little bit troubling that they’re not keeping data or statistics on that, because we risk repeating the same issues," said the Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in cannabis issues.
“The mere fact of tracking isn’t going to solve the problem, but if you aren’t tracking, you may not even be able to identify the problem.”
Meanwhile, cannabis-related court cases can help make changes to the recent legislation. Sa'd said she predicts constitutional challenges to the stricter impaired-driving laws that were introduced in preparation for cannabis legalization, and to Manitoba's ban on growing cannabis plants at home, which flouts the federal law.
“We can count on the courts, eventually, hopefully, to right wrongs and smooth out kinks in the legislation, but that’s not an overnight thing, and in the meantime, there will be people who may suffer convictions simply because they couldn’t afford to fight the battle or maybe didn’t have the perfect test case," she said.