What is drug trafficking in Canada?

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What is considered trafficking?

Trafficking is a serious offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. According to the Act, trafficking in respect of an illegal drug, means:

“(a) to sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver the substance,

(b) to sell an authorization to obtain the substance, or

(c) to offer to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b)

otherwise than under the authority of the regulations.”

Possession for the purpose of trafficking is a separate offence.

Cannabis laws

Under the new federal Cannabis Act, possession of cannabis (marijuana) is no longer a crime in Canada; although there are legal limits for how much cannabis you can possess. It is important to note that although the federal minimum age for possession of cannabis in public is 18, most provinces and territories have raised the minimum age requirement to 19.

In most provinces, it is also legal to have up-to five cannabis plants in your home for personal use. Also, you may be authorized to legally cultivate cannabis and to sell it, if you obtain the proper legal licences.  For more information, refer to our Cannabis Law section.

Factors that suggest trafficking

Although it is not always clear whether someone is in possession for the purpose of trafficking, the police often rely on a number of surrounding circumstances to lay a charge. For example, a person might be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking if they have a large quantity of drugs in their possession, or if they are caught with several small packages of drugs prepared for individual sale and an accompanying list of names. In the most obvious situation, if a person is caught actually selling drugs or trying to sell drugs, they will be charged with trafficking, even if the quantity they are trying to sell is small. Importing charges will also be laid if a person is caught entering Canada with illegal drugs in their possession.

Penalties for trafficking

The maximum penalty for drug trafficking is life in prison. Most often, however, the penalty given by the court includes less jail time and probation. In deciding the severity of the penalty, the judge will consider many factors, including the type of substance being sold, how much of the substance was found in the possession of the accused, and whether the accused had a prior criminal record.

What is production (cultivation) of an illegal substance?

Production of an illegal substance is also a serious offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Act states that production can include things such as:

  • manufacturing, synthesizing or using any means of altering the chemical or physical properties of the substance, or
  • cultivating, propagating or harvesting the substance or any living thing from which the substance may be extracted or otherwise obtained, and
  • includes an offer to produce.

Penalties for production (cultivation)

The penalties for production or cultivation of an illegal substance range from maximum jail sentences between 3 years to life, depending on the quantity and type of substance. For example, the production of cocaine or heroin can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Trafficking in, or the production of an illegal substance are serious offences, with serious consequences. If you have been charged with either of these offences, you should consult a lawyer for assistance.