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Controlled Drug and Substances Act

Region: Ontario Answer # 1880

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is the primary drug legislation in Canada that addresses the possession, trafficking, production, and distribution of controlled substances.

The CDSA is a federal statute that was enacted in 1996 to consolidate and modernize Canada’s drug laws. It establishes the legal framework for the control of psychoactive substances and provides for the regulation, investigation, and prosecution of drug-related offences. The CDSA categorizes various substances according to their potential for harm and abuse, and outlines corresponding offences and penalties based on these classifications.

If you have been charged with a drug related crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

Classification of controlled substances  

Under the CDSA, controlled substances are currently classified into six categories, called “Schedules”, with each Schedule representing a different level of risk and potential for abuse. The harshest penalties are given to offences that involve drugs in the first three categories.

  • Schedule I: Includes opioids, such as heroin and morphine, as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.
  • Schedule II: Includes 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 III: Includes hallucinogens, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
  • Schedule IV: Contains barbiturates and anabolic steroids.
  • Schedule V: Lists analogues and derivatives of N-Phenyl-4-piperidinamine and its salts.
  • Schedule VI: Includes substances primarily used as solvents, such as toluene and acetone.

The following two Schedules are no longer in force:

  • Schedule VII: Contains substances that are temporarily controlled pending further research, such as certain synthetic cannabinoids.
  • Schedule VIII: Lists substances exempted from certain provisions of the CDSA, such as alcohol and nicotine.

What drug offences are listed under the CDSA?

The CDSA outlines several offences related to controlled substances, including:

  • Possession: Having a controlled substance in one’s custody or control without a valid prescription or authorization.
  • Trafficking: Selling, administering, giving, transferring, or transporting a controlled substance, or offering to do so.
  • Production: Manufacturing, cultivating, or otherwise producing a controlled substance without proper authorization.
  • Importation and Exportation: Bringing a controlled substance into or out of Canada without the necessary permits.
  • Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking: Possessing a controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute it.

What types of penalties exist for drug offences?

Penalties for drug offences under the CDSA vary depending on the nature of the offence, the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved, and the offender’s criminal history. Some of the potential penalties include:

Fines: Monetary penalties can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars (or more), depending on the severity of the offence.

Imprisonment: Incarceration sentences can range from a few months to life imprisonment, depending on the offence and the circumstances surrounding the case.

Probation: Offenders may be placed under supervision and required to adhere to specific conditions, such as attending drug treatment programs or abstaining from drug use.

Community service: Offenders may be required to perform unpaid work in the community as a condition of their sentence.

Restitution: Offenders may be required to pay compensation to victims who suffered financial losses due to their actions.

Seizure and forfeiture: Property, such as vehicles or cash, that was used in or derived from the commission of a drug offence may be seized and forfeited to the government.

The impact of cannabis legalization

In October 2018, the Canadian government legalized the recreational use of cannabis by enacting the Cannabis Act. This legislation removed cannabis from Schedule II of the CDSA, and established a separate regulatory framework for the production, distribution, and possession of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes.

While the legalization of cannabis has reduced the number of criminal charges related to its possession, trafficking, and production, it is still important to be aware of the specific rules and regulations governing its use, as violations can still result in fines, imprisonment, or other penalties. For example, there are restrictions on the amount of cannabis an individual can possess in public, the minimum age for consumption, and the locations where cannabis can be used.

For more information, refer to our Cannabis Law section.

Get help

Understanding the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its implications is essential for anyone living in or visiting Canada. For more information on specific drug offences under the CDSA, including penalties, view the Act, or refer to other Answers in Criminal Law.

To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .

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