Although the overall rate of police-reported drug offences has increased 12% since 1993, the long-term trend hasgenerally remained stable over the past 15 years. It must be noted that trends in drug offences are directly influenced by levels of police enforcement.
After a ten-year decline, the rate of cannabis offences has increased by 34% since 1991. Conversely, the rate of cocaine offences increased between 1981 and 1989, but has dropped by 36% since 1989. The rate of heroin offences also increased for a number of years, peaking in 1993, and then falling 25% over the last four years.
Cannabis-supply offences (trafficking, importing and cultivation) increased for the fourth consecutive year in 1997,
partially driven by an increase in cultivation offences. Cannabis-possession offences increased steadily from
1991 to 1996, but dropped slightly in 1997.
Cannabis offences continue to account for the majority of all drug offences. More than 7 in 10 drug offences
reported in 1997 involved cannabis. Two-thirds of cannabis offences were for simple possession.
British Columbia continued to show the highest rate (426 offences per 100,000 population) of drug offences in
1997, almost twice the national average. However, when examining only the number of persons charged with
drug offences, the rate for British Columbia was only 41% greater than the national average. Newfoundland
reported the lowest rate (132) of drug offences for the second year in a row.
While Newfoundland and Alberta have shown the largest decreases in drug offences in recent years, Nova Scotia
(+44%), Saskatchewan (+26%) and Manitoba (+14%) have seen the largest increases in the rate of drug offences
over the last 2 years.
Younger people are less likely to be charged with serious drug offences. Of all persons charged with cocaine and
heroin offences, only 36% were under 25 years of age. For cannabis offences, this proportion was 86%.
The courts continue to treat trafficking offences more severely than possession offences. In 1996-97, data from
seven provinces and one territory show that about two-thirds (64%) of persons convicted of trafficking were
sentenced to imprisonment, compared to 13% for possession.
Data from a one-day snapshot of inmates in correctional facilities in 1996 show that the most serious offence for
which 9% of the adult inmate population in Canada were incarcerated was a drug offence.