Role of the Criminal Law
Since many acts may be “harmful”, and since society has many other means for
controlling or responding to conduct, criminal law should be used only when the harm
caused or threatened is serious, and when the other, less coercive or less intrusive means
do not work or are inappropriate.
The Criminal Law in Canadian Society, 1982, p. 45
Canada’s Drug Strategy
• Drug strategy until 2007
• Current drug strategy is an “anti-drug strategy”
Federal drug strategy:
• A balance between supply reduction and demand reduction is needed.
• Substance abuse is primarily a health issue.
• The long-term goal of Canada's drug strategy is to reduce the harm associated
with alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families, and communities.
• Because substance abuse is primarily a health issue rather than an enforcement
issue, harm reduction is considered to be a realistic, pragmatic, and humane
approach to reduce the use of drugs.
• Federally, 11 departments and agencies spend approximately $500 million
annually to address illicit drug use in Canada. The main ones are Health Canada,
the Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Solicitor General
Canada, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Correctional Service Canada,
and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In addition,
municipal and provincial/territorial governments are equally involved in
addressing illicit drugs.
• About 95 percent of the federal government’s expenditures that address illicit
drugs were used for supply
• reduction (enforcement or interdiction). International Law
1. The international drug conventions contain provisions that permit a state to
“denounce” a treaty (i.e., remove itself as a signatory).
2. Many obligations are “subject to constitutional principles” and/or “the basic concepts
of the legal system.”
3. Strong language in each of the conventions expressly allows signatory states to adopt
“measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation and social integration” for
drug users “either as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to
conviction or punishment.”
4. Some argue that the international human rights instruments – for example, the United
Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – should
5. The country that is seeking to introduce a particular program relating to drugs can
simply argue that its interpretation of the treaties is that such a program is permissible.
• Section 7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the
right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of
• Section 8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or
• Section 9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.
• Section 12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual
treatment or punishment
• Section 15(1). Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the
right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination
and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin,
colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
• Overall Limitation: Section 1 The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable
limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic
• Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (and Regulations) – replaces the Narcotic
Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act
• Criminal Code (dealing with drug paraphernalia) and related provisions in the
Food and Drugs Act
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
• Expansive definitions – “traffic,” “controlled substance”
• Expansive offences – “holding out”
o Seeking or obtaining controlled substance from practitioner o Trafficking (including holding out)
o Possession for the purpose of . . .
o Also general offences of conspiracy, party to an offence
• 4. (1) Except as authorized under the regulations, no person shall possess a
substance included in Schedule I, II or III.
• 4. (5) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) where the subject-matter of
the offence is a substance included in Schedule II in an amount that does not
exceed the amount set out for that substance in Schedule VIII is guilty of an
offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding one
thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to
• Powers to search, seize
• Offence-related property – forfeiture (limits on forfeiture of real estate)
• Constitutional limitations?
o Exemptions created by regulations (section 55)
o Narcotic Control Regulations (authority to prescribe)
o Marihuana Medical Access Regulations
o Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Police Enforcement) Regulations
• Exemption by Minister of Health (section 56)
• Special Access Programme
• Non-prosecution agreements
Criminal Code “Drug Paraphernalia”
INSTRUMENTS AND LITERATURE FOR ILLICIT DRUG