Canada's cannabis legalization and adult crime patterns, 2015-2021: A time series study

Addict Behav. 2023 Nov:146:107813. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2023.107813. Epub 2023 Jul 24.


Background and aim: A central goal of the Cannabis Act (October 17, 2018) - Canada's national cannabis legalization framework - aimed to reduce cannabis-related criminalization and consequent impact on the Canadian criminal justice system. We assessed whether Canada's cannabis legalization was associated with changes in adult police-reported cannabis-related, property, or violent criminal incidents.

Design: Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA) time series models evaluated relations between legalization and adult cannabis-related, property, and violent crimes, using criminal incident data from the Canadian Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR-2; January 1, 2015-December 31, 2021).

Primary sample: National police-reported adult cannabis-related offenses (n = 247,249), property crimes (n = 2,299,777), and violent crimes (n = 1,903,762).

Findings: Implementation of the Cannabis Act was associated with decreases in adult police-reported cannabis-related offenses: females, -13.2 daily incidents (95% CI, -16.4; -10.1; p < 0.001) - a reduction of 73.9% [standard error (se), 30.6%]; males, -69.4 daily offenses (95% CI, -81.5; -57.2; p < 0.001) - a drop of 83.2% (se, 21.2%). Legalization was not associated with significant changes in the adult property-crime or violent-crime series.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that Canada's cannabis legalization was successful in reducing cannabis-related criminalization among adults. There was also a lack of evidence for spillover effects of cannabis legalization on adult property or violent crimes.

Keywords: Adults; Canada; Cannabis legalization; Crime; Criminal justice system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cannabis*
  • Crime
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • Violence

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