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Drug Related Charges - And What About Cannabis?

The federal Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) came into effect on October 17, 2018 and made Canada the second country in the world to formally legalize the cultivation, possession, acquisition and consumption of cannabis and its by-products. 

Drug charges are regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) as opposed to under the Criminal Code of Canada. While the Cannabis Act removed cannabis possession for personal consumption from the CDSA, it also implemented taxation and stronger punishments for those convicted of either supplying cannabis to minors, or of impairment while driving a motor vehicle.

Other Drug Charges

If you have been charged with a drug offence, a conviction can result in a fine, jail time, and a criminal record that could affect your future in terms of employment, travelling (particularly to the United States), and more.You could also lose property, including homes or vehicles, if they are purchased with the proceeds of drugs or used to grow or sell drugs. 

Drug trafficking offences can carry mandatory sentences upon conviction. For example, a drug trafficking conviction associated with a gang can lead to 1 year in jail and drug trafficking in a school environment will lead to a minimum 2 years in jail.

Rishma Gupta, Criminal Defence Lawyer at RG Law has experience in a wide range of drug charges related to controlled substances, including cocaine, crack, heroin, meth, ecstasy and even prescription drugs. 

The CDSA prohibits possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, trafficking, importing/exporting, and production of a lengthy list of substances. There are several types of drug related offence charges including:

Drug possession: Even having a small amount of a controlled substance can result in a possession charge.

Drug trafficking: A more serious charge than possession, it involves the intent to sell or distribute the drugs.

Drug production and unlicensed grow ops: Although cannabis use has become legalized, it is still required to hold a license to grow more than the amount for personal use (4 plants). 

Drug importing: This involves bringing illegal drugs into a country.

Drug-Impaired Driving (DID): Although driving under the influence of alcohol is a well-known offence, drug-impaired driving has been illegal in Canada since 1925. Policy changes in 2016 added drug-impaired driving to drunk driving laws, enhancing the penalty for driving under the influence of drugs.

For example, if your blood sample contains a concentration of cannabis (THC) that is equal to or above the concentration prescribed by federal regulation, you could face Criminal Code charges. The prescribed blood drug concentrations for cannabis are as follows:

 

  • 2 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood
  • 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood
  • 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, combined with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or over 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

For all other federally controlled drugs, any detectable trace at all is enough to face charges, with the exception of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate).

Schedules of CDSA

Schedule I includes, but is not limited to: cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamines, and heroin. Because these drugs are considered more dangerous, convictions will result in more serious fines and lengthier jail sentences.

Schedule II includes marijuana and its derivatives. Schedule II drugs typically carry lighter sentences, with simple possession charges usually being summarily prosecuted.

Schedule III includes drugs such as LSD, DMT and psilocybin.

Schedule IV is for Barbiturates, their salts and derivatives.

For a full list of substances and Schedules, see the CDSA at laws-lois.justice.gc.ca.

Defending Drug Related Charges

When Rishma Gupta defends a drug charge case, she closely examines every aspect of the case including the validity of the search warrant, reviewing if you had ‘care and control’ over the drugs, or discussing the lesser offence of possession instead of trafficking. Further, evidence from witnesses, especially drug dealers or police informants, is not always reliable. Wiretaps and drug paraphernalia may also be dismissed if improperly obtained.

The criminal history of the defendant is also an important consideration. An aggravating factor is a factor that will increase a sentence, for example if the defendant has a previous criminal conviction. A mitigating factor is a factor that will decrease a sentence, such as it being the first time the offender has been found guilty of an offence.

The full circumstances of the charge will also be considered. For example, was there violence or weapons involved in the case? Were the drugs trafficked in a school area to people under 18 years old? 

An experienced criminal defence lawyer will thoroughly investigate your case, examine every detail, assert any possible defences, represent you at trial or negotiate a plea bargain – if appropriate – and guide you through the criminal court process.

Rishma Gupta practices exclusively in the area of criminal defence law and can help you create the best strategy for your defence. Contact Rishma today at 416-844-8467 or rish@guptacriminaltriallawyers.com.