Pondering the future of pot enforcement 

RCMP mid-year stats presented to council

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With the federal government moving towards legalization, has the Whistler RCMP changed its tune about marijuana?

"We're not making any adjustments locally here," said Inspector Neil Cross, at the Sept. 20 council meeting.

"I think from my perspective we're waiting to see what the federal government is going to do in regards to regulations and what they come up with, and then I think we'll have to mould it based on that."

The question was posed by Coun. Jack Crompton, and led to a discussion about the evolution of marijuana enforcement.

"Right now, I mean really, if you have somebody that's stopped with a marijuana cigarette in the village, potentially they could be charged," Cross said.

"In most instances, it's probably a seizure or warning and there's not necessarily a charge, because the court systems are already backed up enough.

"(Who) we're charging is the heavier drug dealers."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and RCMP will have to discuss their priorities regarding enforcement as legalization draws nearer, Cross said.

"If we had a marijuana location that was to consider opening — and obviously council would be involved with that — then in discussion with the police we'd decide where it fits in the priority list in regards to enforcement," he said.

Police resources are scarce, and in some cases raiding dispensaries is a losing battle, Cross said, noting an instance in Nanaimo where three dispensaries were raided.

"Within two days the stores were open again, so I think you really have to decide what you want to focus on," he said.

The discussion came after Cross presented the RCMP's mid-year report.

Police responded to 112 incidents of violent crime from January to August 2016, down from 132 over the same period last year, Cross said.

The majority of the calls were for assault (86), domestic violence (34) and sexual assault (10).

Property crime was also down, from 519 calls last year to 466.

The majority of calls were for theft under $5,000 (137), mischief to property under $5,000 (89), bicycle theft (88) and theft from a vehicle (42).

RCMP responded to 14 reports of residential break and enter and seven reports for break and enter at a business.

The RCMP also responded to a large number of disturbances (215) and cases of public intoxication (94), though Cross said the RCMP's goal is to get inebriated people home safely rather than lock them up.

Police busted 77 people for possession of cannabis under 30 grams (and two for possession of more than 30 grams), 57 people for possession of cocaine and four people for possession of ecstasy.

Not listed in the stats is fentanyl — the deadly synthetic drug responsible for numerous deaths across the province — though the Whistler RCMP is taking steps to deal with it, Cross said.

Whistler RCMP will also soon be carrying naloxone kits to combat fentanyl exposure, Cross said — both for themselves and others — and all officers will be taking the accompanying training as well.

The number of missing persons reported rose from 35 to 51, which Cross attributed in part to the increase in visitors.

"Fortunately, everybody has been found or accounted for so we don't have any outstanding," he said.

Traffic collisions were up 16 per cent over last year, as RCMP responded to 128 calls compared to 110 in 2015.

The majority of the calls were for impaired driving (142 — up from 126 last year) and motor vehicle incidents with damages over $1,000 (83), though Cross noted distracted driving is now almost on par with impaired.

There were no fatal collisions.

In terms of workload, officers in Whistler and Pemberton laid 492 charges, up from 396 last year. The five-year average is 274.4.

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