Drug Trafficking: If you sell or share narcotics, you can be charged with drug trafficking. Even if you are not caught selling or sharing narcotics but are found in possession of them with the intention of selling or distributing them, you can face serious criminal charges under the offence of Possession for the Purposes of Trafficking. The sentence you receive depends on the type and quantity of drugs found in your possession. Illegal drugs are classified into schedules, with Schedule I drugs being "hard drugs" like heroin and cocaine. If you are found with a significant amount of these drugs and there are aggravating factors, such as being near a school, you could be sentenced to life in prison.
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Drug trafficking in Canada
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is a federal law that regulates drug offences in Canada and applies to all provinces and territories. Individuals can be charged with drug trafficking if they are caught selling or distributing narcotics. Section 5 (1) of the CDA states, "No person shall traffic in a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V or in any substance represented or held out by that person to be such a substance. Section 5 (2) adds, "No person shall, for the purpose of trafficking, possess a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V."
What Exactly Is Drug Trafficking?
According to Section 2 (1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), drug trafficking refers to the activities involving substances listed in Schedules I to V. Specifically, "traffic" 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.
It is important to note that you do not need to actually sell a narcotic in order to be guilty of drug trafficking. Even sharing a drug with others can lead to criminal liability under this offence.
The CDSA defines what are Schedule I to V drugs
Schedule I drugs are commonly characterized as "hard drugs." They include street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and opium, as well as numerous pharmaceutical-grade drugs such as oxycodone and morphine.
Schedule II drugs include synthetic cannabinoid receptor type 1 agonists, their salts, derivatives, isomers, and salts of derivatives and isomers. Until 2018 this category included drugs falling within the cannabis family but are now dealt with under the Cannabis Act.
Schedule IV includes popular pharmaceuticals such as diazepam, benzodiazepine and anabolic steroids.
Schedule V lists no drugs at this time, though a previous webpage version shows Propylhexedrine, used medicinally as a nasal decongestant, appetite suppressant and psychostimulant medication.
What is Needed to Convict
To establish a drug trafficking conviction, the Crown must prove certain elements of the offence including the time, date and identity of the perpetrator.
The Crown must also prove:
- the accused was in possession of an illegal substance;
- the drug was listed as a control substance under the CDSA;
- the accused knew of the nature of the substance;
- the possession of the substance was not authorized;
- the accused intended to traffic the substance.
The Crown bears the burden to prove each and every element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict an accused of trafficking.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking
Sentencing for drug trafficking offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is complex and is intended to address both denunciation (condemnation) and deterrence (prevention). As such, sentences for drug traffickers are generally custodial (involving imprisonment) in nature. However, there is still a wide range of possible sentences for drug trafficking, which can range from a fine to a severe prison sentence. The specific sentence an offender will receive depends on various factors, including the type and quantity of the drug trafficked, the circumstances of the offence, and the offender's personal history.
There are no fixed "sentencing grids" in Canada like there are in the United States, and each offender is treated as a unique individual by the sentencing judge, who has full discretion to impose a sentence as deemed appropriate based on the above-mentioned factors.
Kind of Drug
Harder drugs attract lengthier jail sentences, and the Schedule informs the seriousness of the drug it falls into. By way of illustration, Schedule I drugs are the most serious and would include cocaine and heroin. Trafficking in Schedule I drugs will generally attract lengthy periods of incarceration. Whereas Schedule IV drugs are deemed less serious and would consist of most kinds of barbiturates. Although a jail sentence is certainly possible under Schedule IV drugs, a fine is standard in most cases. In addition, there may be sentencing variations within a set Schedule. For example, both heroin and cocaine are Schedule I drugs. However, heroin attracts higher and more severe sentences than cocaine.
The Quantity of Drugs
The amount of drugs involved in a trafficking case can impact the sentence handed down by a judge. Generally, larger quantities of drugs will result in more severe penalties. Both the type and quantity of the drug are considered when determining the appropriate sentence.
Circumstances of the Trafficking
The circumstances of the drug trafficking will be taken into consideration when determining the sentence. Factors that may be considered include the scale and scope of the operation, whether it was a large-scale professional operation or a small-scale personal transaction, and the level of planning and organization involved. The more serious the circumstances, the more severe the sentence is likely to be.
The Background of the Offender
The personal history and circumstances of the offender will be taken into consideration by the sentencing judge in determining the appropriate sentence for a drug trafficking offence. This may include the age of the offender, any prior criminal record, any previous drug offences, family and community ties, and the likelihood of rehabilitation. These factors can help the judge ensure that the sentence reflects the offender's individual situation and promotes fairness in the legal system.