03/09/2016 12:13 EST | Updated 03/10/2017 05:12 EST

Put An End To Racially Biased Arrests For Pot Possession

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Marijuana and handcuffs conceptual image for criminal aspects of the drug.

There have been more than 22,400 arrests for cannabis possession in Canada since Trudeau became prime minister.

I derive that number from the last reported rate of cannabis possession arrests in Canada -- 160 per day, or one every nine minutes.

There is no indication that the rate of arrests has slowed since Trudeau took over, with many police forces explicitly saying they are continuing to enforce the possession laws as strictly as ever. Former Toronto police chief and Liberal MP Bill Blair agrees, saying he wants pot busts to continue.

Yet according to Blair, a disproportionate number of these arrests are among "minority communities, aboriginal communities and those in our most vulnerable neighbourhoods."

The stats show that this is true. The further north you go in Canada, the higher the rates of cannabis possession and trafficking arrests climb.

The annual rate of arrests for selling cannabis is 38 people per 100,000 in the south of Canada, but over eight times higher (at 320 per 100,000) in the north.

In Nunavut and the North West Territories, about one per cent of the population gets arrested for a cannabis offence every year. That is an astoundingly high rate of arrests, especially when compared with cities like Vancouver, where such arrests are very rare.

So, why continue to criminalize possession in some parts of the country and not others? It is not right for the law to be so unfairly enforced across the country.

How can Trudeau and Blair acknowledge that prohibition is enforced in a very racially biased manner, confirm that they are going to legalize cannabis soon, and yet refuse to do anything now to stop those pointless and harmful arrests from continuing to take place?

Trudeau is right when he says decriminalization isn't the right solution for cannabis. But it is the right first step. Stopping arrests for possession and personal cultivation is the best first step towards ending the war on cannabis. Plus, allowing Canadians to grow a few plants for personal use will help to break the hold of the black market.

All Canadians should be calling upon Trudeau and Blair to end arrests for personal possession and personal cultivation now.

All that has to happen is to remove possession of under 30 grams of cannabis from Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is actually quite an easy thing to do, and wouldn't even require an act of Parliament. The same thing could be done with cultivation of five plants or fewer for personal use.

Of course there are many more steps that need to be taken, and time is needed to figure out the details. But we can be more patient with that process if the Liberals make a real show of good faith now, and take these two simple but important steps without delay.

Click here to join with the 10,000 Canadians who have already signed an online petition calling for an end to cannabis arrests. Let's show Trudeau and Blair that Canadians want an immediate end to cannabis arrests.

Click here to find out more about the online petition, and how it outlines an eight point path to legalization.

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