OUR POSITION FOR A CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY
REPORT OF THE SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ILLEGAL DRUGS
VOLUME II : PART III
Chairman: Pierre Claude Nolin
Deputy Chairman: Colin Kenny
I - General Orientation
- Our Mandate
- Our Work
Two Working Principles
State of Knowledge
The Challenge of Synthesis
Taking Opinions into Account
Interpreting in Light of Principles
3 - Our guiding principles
Ethics, or the principle of reciprocal autonomy
Governance: maximizing the actions of individuals
Governance of the self
The role of governance
Criminal law and the limits of prohibition
Requirement for distinctions
Criteria for distinction
Application to illegal drugs issues
Science or approximate knowledge
- A Changing Context
Changes in the International Sphere
Globalization and Integration
Difficulties of the Security Debate
From Anti-Drug Policies to Drug Policies
Changes in Canada
A National Crime Prevention Strategy
The Fight Against Organized Crime
A Societal Debate
PART II - CANNABIS: EFFECTS, TYPES OF USE, ATTITUDES
CHAPTER 5 - CANNABIS: FROM PLANT TO JOINT
ONE PLANT, VARIOUS DRUGS
PROPERTIES OF CANNABIS
CHAPTER 6 - USERS AND USES: FORM, PRACTICE, CONTEXT
PATTERNS OF USE
Consumption by the population as a whole
Consumption among young people
Use patterns in other countries
PATTERNS AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF USE
Cannabis in History
Trajectories of Use
Factors Related to Use
STEPPING STONE TOWARDS OTHER DRUGS?
CANNABIS, VIOLENCE AND CRIME
CHAPTER 7 - CANNABIS: EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCES
EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF CANNABIS: WHAT WE WERE TOLD
ACUTE EFFECTS OF CANNABIS
CONSEQUENCES OF CHRONIC USE
Physiological Consequences of Chronic Use
Cognitive and Psychological Consequences
Behavioural and Social Consequences
TOLERANCE AND DEPENDENCE
Severity of Dependence
CHAPTER 8 - DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS
FORMS OF TESTING
Studies not involving accidents
Studies where an accident was involved
Epidemiological studies on youth
CHAPTER 9 - USE OF MARIJUANA FOR THERAPEUTIC PURPOSES
Marijuana as a drug?
CURRENT THERAPEUTIC PRACTICES
CHAPTER 10 - CANADIANS' OPINIONS AND ATTITUDES
ATTITUDES AND OPINIONS SHARED WITH THE COMMITTEE
CHAPTER 11 - A NATIONAL DRUG STRATEGY?
PHASE I - DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
Creation of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Creation of Canada's Drug Strategy Secretariat
PHASE II - RENEWAL
PHASE III - RENEWAL WITHOUT SPECIFIED FUNDING
CANADA'S DRUG STRATEGY - A SUCCESS?
CHAPTER 12 - THE NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE CONTEXT
Opium Act, 1908
The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1911
Amendments to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act (1920-1938)
Amendments to the Act to Amend the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1954
Senate Report of 1955
FROM 1960 TO THE LE DAIN COMMISSION: THE SEARCH FOR REASONS
Narcotic Control Act (1961)
An Act respecting Food and Drugs and Barbiturates (1961)
The Le Dain Commission (1969-1973)
Bill S?19 and Cannabis
AFTER LE DAIN: FORGING AHEAD REGARDLESS
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
CHAPTER 13 - REGULATING THERAPEUTIC USE OF CANNABIS
BACKGROUND TO THE RECENT REGULATIONS
Section 56 - Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Charter Challenges - Therapeutic Use of Marijuana
MARIHUANA MEDICAL ACCESS REGULATIONS
Authorization to Possess
Licence to Produce
Access to cannabis
CHAPTER 14 - POLICE PRACTICES
CHARGES UNDER THE CONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT IN 1999
TheCanada Customs and Revenue Agency
Provincial and Municipal Police
Searches and Seizures
Entrapment and Illegal Activity
Customs Act - Fines
CHAPTER 15 - THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Drug Treatment Courts
DISPOSITION AND SENTENCING
CHAPTER 16 - PREVENTION
INITIATIVES THAT FALL SHORT OF THE MARK
Not enough prevention
Prevention lacks focus
There is not enough evaluation of preventive measures
Preventive and social messages in contradiction
There is a body of knowledge on which we have to draw
PREVENTING WHAT AND HOW?
RISK REDUCTION AND HARM REDUCTION
CHAPTER 17 - TREATMENT PRACTICES
FORMS OF TREATMENT
EFFECTIVENESS OF TREATMENT
CHAPTER 18 - OBSERVATIONS ON PRACTICES
DIFFICULTIES IN HARMONIZING THE PLAYERS
INCONGRUITIES OF APPROACH
SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COSTS
CHAPTER 19 - THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ENVIRONMENT
The 1909 Shanghai Conference
The 1912 Hague International Opium Convention
The 1925 Geneva Opium Conventions
The 1931 Geneva Narcotics Manufacturing and Distribution Limitation Convention / 1931 Bangkok Opium Smoking Agreement
The 1936 Geneva Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs
The Second World War
The 1946 Lake Success Protocol
The 1948 Paris Protocol
The 1953 New York Opium Protocol
THE THREE CURRENT CONVENTIONS
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
Convention on Psychotropic Substances
Protocol amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
CHAPTER 20 - PUBLIC POLICIES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Different Forms of Logic
An Integrated Public Policy
Statistics on Use and Offences
Essential Experts Reports
The Coffee Shop System
Data on Use
Ten-Year Strategy to Battle Drugs
Other Relevant Legislation in the Field of Drug Misuse
Debate in the UK
Recent Key Reports and Studies
Debate in Sweden
A Harm Reduction Policy
The Legal Framework
A Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis
Administration of Swiss Drug Policy
Statistics on Narcotics Use and Offences under the Narcotics Act
National Drug Strategy
Decriminilization in Australia
The Federal-State Legislative Framework
Current Legislation and Enforcement
Federal Drug Policy Goals and Objectives
Administration of the Policy
Current Issues and Debates
CHAPTER 21 - PUBLIC POLICY OPTIONS
INEFFECTIVENESS OF CRIMINAL POLICIES
Impact on Consumption
Impact on Supply
GENERAL ECONOMY OF A PUBLIC POLICY ON CANNABIS
COMPONENTS OF A PUBLIC POLICY
Strong Decision-making Body
A Shared Definition of Shared Objectives
Clarification of criminology
Criteria for a Legal Policy on Cannabis
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
LE DAIN - ALREADY THIRTY YEARS AGO
INEFFECTIVENESS OF THE CURRENT APPROACH
PUBLIC POLICY BASED ON GUIDING PRINCIPLES
A CLEAR AND COHERENT FEDERAL STRATEGY
NATIONAL STRATEGY SUSTAINED BY ADEQUATE RESOURCES AND TOOLS
A PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY
A REGULATORY APPROACH TO CANNABIS
A COMPASSION-BASED APPROACH FOR THERAPEUTIC USE
PROVISIONS FOR OPERATING A VEHICLE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS
CANADA'S INTERNATIONAL POSITION
of key terms
Vague term with a variety of meanings depending on the social, medical
and legal contexts. Some equate any use of illicit drugs to abuse: for example,
the international conventions consider that any use of drugs other than for
medical or scientific purposes is abuse. The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of
the American Psychiatric Association defines abuse as a maladaptive pattern of
substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as
defined by one or more of four criteria (see chapter 7). In the report, we
prefer the term excessive use (or harmful use).
Refers to effects resulting from the administration of any drug and
specifically to its short term effects. These effects are distinguished between
central (cerebral functions) and peripheral (nervous system). Effects are
General term referring to the concepts of tolerance and dependency.
According to WHO addiction is the repeated use of a psychoactive substance to
the extent that the user is periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a
compulsion to take the preferred substance, has great difficulty in voluntarily
ceasing or modifying substance use, and exhibits determination to obtain the
substance by almost any means. Some authors prefer the term addiction to
dependence, because the former also refers to the evolutive process preceding
A substance that acts on receptor sites to
produce certain responses.
Agonist neurotransmitter of the endogenous cannabinoid system. Although
not yet fully understood in research, these neurotransmitters seem to act as
modulators, THC increasing the liberation of dopamine in nucleus
accumbens and cerebral
Use behaviour which makes users at-risk of developing dependence to the substance.
receptors of the active cannabis molecules, particularly 9-THC. Two endogenous
receptors have been identified: CB1 densely concentrated in the hippacampus,
basal ganglia, cerebellum and cerebral cortex, and CB2
particularly abundant in the immune system. The central effects of cannabis
appear to be related only to CB1.
Three varieties of the cannabis plant exist: cannabis sativa, cannabis
indica, and cannabis ruredalis. Cannabis
sativa is the most commonly found, growing in almost any soil condition. The
cannabis plant has been known in China for about 6000 years. The flowering tops
and leaves are used to produce the smoked cannabis. Common terms used to refer
to cannabis are pot, marihuana, dope, ganja, hemp. Hashish is produced from the
extracted resin. Classified as a psychotropic drug
cannabis is a modulator of the central nervous system. It contains over 460
known chemicals, of which 60 are cannabinoids. Delta-9-tétrahydrocannabinol,
referred to as THC, is the principal active ingredient of cannabis. Other
components such delta-8-tétrahydrocannabinol, cannabinol and cannabidiol are
present in smaller quantities and have no significant impacts on behaviour or
perception. However, they may modulate the overall effects of the substance.
Refers to effects which are delayed or develop after repeated use. In the
report we prefer to use the term consequences of repeated use rather than
on narcotic drugs (CND)
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established in 1946 by the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the central
policy-making body within the UN system for dealing with all drug-related
matters. The Commission analyses the world drug abuse situation and develops
proposals to strengthen international drug control.
Removal of a behaviour or activity from the scope of the criminal justice
system. A distinction is usually made between de jure decriminalization, which entails an amendment to criminal
legislation, and de facto
decriminalization, which involves an administrative decision not to
prosecute acts that nonetheless remain against the law. Decriminalization
concerns only criminal legislation, and does not mean that the legal system has
no further jurisdiction of any kind in this regard: other, non-criminal, laws
may regulate the behaviour or activity that has been decriminalized (civil or
regulatory offences, etc.).
The use of measures other than prosecution or a criminal conviction for
an act that nonetheless remains against the law. Diversion can take place before
a charge is formally laid, for example if the accused person agrees to undergo
treatment. It can also occur at the time of sentencing, when community service
or treatment may be imposed rather than incarceration.
Modification of the sentences provided in criminal legislation for a
particular behaviour In the case of cannabis, it generally refers to the removal
of custodial sentences.
State where the user continues its use of the substance despite
significant health, psychological, relational, familial or social problems.
Dependence is a complex phenomenon which may have genetic components.
Psychological dependence refers to the psychological symptoms associated with
craving and physical dependence to tolerance and the adaptation of the organism
to chronic use. The American Psychiatric Association has proposed seven criteria
(see chapter 7).
Neuromediator involved in the mechanisms of pleasure.
Generally used to refer to illicit rather than licit substances such
as nicotine, alcohol or medicines.
In pharmacology, the term refers to any chemical agent that alters the
biochemical or physiological processes of tissues or organisms. In this sense,
the term drug refers better to any substance which is principally used for its
European Monitoring Centre on
Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
The European Monitoring Centre was created in 1993 to provide member
states objective, reliable and comparable information within the EU on drugs,
drug addictions and their consequences. Statistical information, documents and
techniques developed in the EMCDDA are designed to give a broad perspective on
drug issues in Europe. The Centre only deals with information. It relies on
national focal points in each of the Member States.
Characteristic of a substance to irrigate quickly the tissues. THC is
Theory suggesting a sequential pattern in involvement in drug use from
nicotine to alcohol, to cannabis and then “hard” drugs. The theory rests on
a statistical association between the use of hard drugs and the fact that these
users have generally used cannabis as their first illicit drug. This theory has
not been validated by empirical research and is considered outdated.
needed for the concentration of a particular drug in blood to decline to half
its maximum level. The half-life of THC is 4.3 days on average but is faster in
regular than in occasional users. Because it is highly fat soluble, THC is
stored in fatty tissues, thus increasing its half life to as much as 7 to 12
days. Prolonged use of cannabis increases the period of time needed to eliminate
is from the system. Even one week after use, THC metabolites may remain in the
system. They are gradually metabolised in the urine (one third) and in feces
(two thirds). Traces on inactive THC metabolites can be detected as many as 30
days after use.
Resinous extract from the flowering tops of the cannabis plant and transformed into a paste.
Various international conventions have been adopted by the international
community since 1912, first under the Society of Nations and then under the
United Nations, to regulate the possession, use, production, distribution, sale,
etc., of various psychotropic substances. Currently, the three main conventions
are the 1961 Single Convention, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substance
and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic. Canada is a signatory to all
three conventions. Subject to countries’ national constitutions, these
conventions establish a system of regulation where only medical and scientific
uses are permitted. This system is based on the prohibition of source plants
(coca, opium and cannabis) and the regulation of synthetic chemicals produced by
Narcotics Control Board (INCB)
The Board is an independent, quasi-judicial organisation responsible for
monitoring the implementation of the UN conventions on drugs. It was created in
1968 as a follow up to the 1961 Single Convention, but had predecessors as early
as the 1930s. The Board makes recommendations to the UN Commission on Narcotics
with respect to additions or deletions in the appendices of the conventions.
Disturbance of the physiological and psychological systems resulting from
a substance. Pharmacology generally distinguishes four levels: light, moderate,
serious and fatal.
Cigarette of marijuana or hashish with or without tobacco. Because joints
are never identical, scientific analyses of the effects of THC are more
difficult, especially in trying to determine the therapeutic benefits of
cannabis and to examine its effects on driving.
Regulatory system allowing the culture, production, marketing, sale and
use of substances. Although none currently exist in relation to « street-drugs »
(as opposed to alcohol or tobacco which are regulated products), a legalisation
system could take two forms: without any state control (free markets) and with
state controls (regulatory regime).
Mexican term originally referring to a cigarette of poor quality. Has now
become equivalent for cannabis.
Substance which can induce stupor or artificial sleep. Usually restricted
to designate opiates. Sometimes used incorrectly to refer to all drugs capable
of inducing dependence.
Office of national drug
control policy (ONDCP) USA
Created in 1984 under the Reagan presidency, the Office is under the
direct authority of the White House. It coordinates US policy on drugs. Its
budget is currently US $18 billion.
Substance derived from the opium poppy. The term opiate excludes
synthetic opioids such as heroin and methadone.
Historically, the term designates the period of national interdiction of
alcohol sales in the United States between 1919 and 1933. By analogy, the term
is now used to describe UN and State policies aiming for a drug-free society.
Prohibition is based on the interdiction to cultivate, produce, fabricate, sell,
possess, use, etc., some substances except for medical and scientific purposes.
Substance which alters mental processes such as thinking or emotions.
More neutral than the term “drug” because it does not refer to the legal
status of the substance, it is the term we prefer to use.
Psychotropic substance (see
Much the same as psychoactive substance. More specifically however, the
term refers to drugs primarily used in the treatment of mental disorders, such
as anxiolytic, sedatives, neuroleptics, etc. More specifically, refers to the
substances covered in the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Control system specifying the conditions under which the cultivation,
production, marketing, prescription, sales, possession or use of a substance are
allowed. Regulatory approaches may rest on interdiction (as for illegal drugs)
or controlled access (as for medical drugs or alcohol). Our proposal of an
exemption regime under the current legislation is a regulatory regime.
of Nations (SDN)
International organisation of States until 1938; now the United Nations.
Main active component of cannabis, D9-THC is very fat-soluble and has a lengthy half-life. Its psychoactive
effects are modulated by other active components in cannabis. In its natural
state, cannabis contains between 0.5% to 5% THC. Sophisticated cultivation
methods and plant selection, especially female plants, leads to higher levels of
Reduced response of the organisms and increased capacity to support its
effects after a more or less lengthy period of use. Tolerance levels are
extremely variable between substances, and tolerance to cannabis is believed to
be lower than for most other drugs, including tobacco and alcohol.
Characteristic of a substance which induces intoxication, i.e.,
“poisoning”. Many substances, including some common foods, have some level
of toxicity. Cannabis presents almost no toxicity and cannot lead to an
Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP)
Established in 1991, the Programme works to educate the world about the
dangers of drug abuse. The Programme aims to strengthen international action
against drug production, trafficking and drug-related crime through alternative
development projects, crop monitoring and anti-money laundering programmes.
UNDCP also provides accurate statistics through the Global Assessment Programme
(GAP) and helps to draft legislation and train judicial officials as part of its
Legal Assistance Programme. UNDCP is part of the UN Office for Drug Control and
the Prevention of Crime.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization, the United Nations specialized agency for
health, was established on 7 April 1948. WHO’s objective, as set out in its
Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of
health. Health is defined in WHO’s Constitution as a state of complete
physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or
is no arguing that both licit and illicit psychoactive substances affect
Canadians in many ways, both positively and negatively, both directly and
indirectly. In addition, no one would dispute the fact that psychoactive
substance use (again, both licit and illicit) is a widespread phenomenon, not
only on the part of adults but also among the youths of this country. Because of
the potential problems for those who abuse psychoactive substances, dealing with
this issue should be a matter of serious concern for any government, and for
society as a whole.
the importance of the subject, it would probably surprise many Canadians to
learn that only from 1987 to 1993 did Canada have a fully funded national drug
strategy. It is true that Canada has had legislation dealing with the use of
psychoactive substances since the passage of the Opium Act in 1908. This Act was followed by several pieces of
criminal legislation over the years that increased federal enforcement powers
over psychoactive substances and expanded the list of illicit substances.
These pieces of legislation have historically focused on the supply of
psychoactive substances, adopting a prohibitionist approach to use. It is widely
acknowledged, however, that a more balanced approach is required if one is to
deal effectively with those who abuse psychoactive substances.
chapter will recount the development and implementation of the 1987 National
Drug Strategy, which had as an objective the promotion of a balanced approach to
the problem of psychoactive substance abuse. This will be followed by a
discussion of what became of the national strategy and whether its goals have
1987, the federal government announced a $210-million, five-year action plan to
curb drug abuse. The government stated that the action plan was in response to
mounting concerns regarding increasing rates of drug-related problems. Others
have suggested that “(t)his strong
political action was undoubtedly influenced by the latest American ‘War on
National Drug Strategy (NDS), Action on
Drug Abuse, was launched by the then Minister of National Health and
Welfare, who was the lead Minister in the federal effort to curb drug abuse.
Several other departments also participated in the first interdepartmental
attempt to co-ordinate Canada’s response to its drug abuse problem. It was
believed that there was a need for a coordinated, strategic approach to the
problem of drug abuse in Canada. The overall objective of the NDS was “to
reduce the harm to individuals, family and communities from the abuse of alcohol
and other drugs through a balanced approach that is acceptable to Canadians.”
Other partners included provincial and municipal governments, business, law
enforcement agencies, and professional and voluntary organizations.
federal government recognized that, in the past, the emphasis of its involvement
in this area had been largely restricted to supply control measures. Meanwhile,
communities, provinces and territories, and many professional and volunteer
groups, had focused their efforts on reducing the demand for drugs, through
prevention and treatment programs. Given the division of constitutional powers
in Canada, this separation of responsibilities is not altogether surprising. It
does, however, impose limits on the establishment of a comprehensive national
division of powers between Canadian provinces and the federal government has
made concerted, comprehensive action against drug and alcohol abuse very
difficult to achieve. For example, most program strategies aimed at prevention
are generally seen as part of the health or education systems; matters of
provincial jurisdiction over which the federal government has little direct
control. However, while enforcement activities are controlled at the local
level, for the most part, the authority derives from federal powers, and the
control largely remains with the federal government. 
developing the NDS, the federal government noted that, within the provinces and
territories, and at the community level, many innovative programs of drug
counselling, therapy and rehabilitation had been initiated. It also recognized
that much of the program expertise existed at the provincial level. What was
lacking, however, was a strong mechanism for national collaboration. The
government believed that the NDS provided such a comprehensive national
framework and viewed it as “a
co-operative program that combines the efforts and resources of the federal
government with those of all provincial and territorial governments and
addiction agencies across Canada.”
government identified six core components of the NDS: education and prevention;
enforcement and control; treatment; international cooperation; research and
information; and national focus. Of the $210 million in new federal funds
allocated to enhance existing programs and to fund new initiatives, $20 million
was allocated for the first year, $40 million for the second year, and $50 million
for the last three years of the strategy. A significant amount (70%) of the
resources was committed to education and prevention (32%) and treatment and
rehabilitation (38%); 20% was committed to enforcement and control; and the
other 10% to information and research (6%), international co-operation (3%) and
national focus (1%).
The government noted that, while enforcement agencies were given more resources
to combat supply, most of the money was allocated to address the demand for
psychoactive substances, thus providing a better balance between reducing both
the demand for drugs and reducing their supply.
According to information received from Health Canada, the resources were
generally spent as planned.
to illustrate the comprehensive nature of the NDS, the following sets out the
goals and initiatives announced during the week of its launch:
treatment, research, control components
improved public awareness and information:
campaign, developed in consultation with provinces;
endorsement of Drug Awareness Week;
involvement in prevention activities:
Support for a
range of prevention initiatives developed within local communities;
Support for the
development of innovative and improved treatment services at the community
expansion of training and training materials;
Action Conference on Drug Abuse.
prevention initiatives targeted to particular groups:
encourage youth employment activities that improve life-skills development as
well as employability;
demonstration projects by police to develop new prevention initiatives for youth
in school, and for urban youth at risk and Aboriginal communities;
A review of all
current programming directed at drug abuse among Aboriginal people;
focussed particularly at Aboriginal youth;
northern communities wishing to exchange experiences with other Arctic Rim
communities on drug abuse issues.
more effective treatment services tailored to specific needs:
of future federal cost-sharing of new or expanded drug and alcohol treatment and
improve detection of drug abuse by health professionals and to support their
of an advisory committee on methadone and measures to prevent diversion of
training materials and information for health care professionals and others
working in the addictions field;
A review of
current efforts to address the problem of drugs in the workplace;
efforts to eliminate the use of banned drugs in sport within Canada and
To update and
improve Canada’s drug laws and regulations:
to replace the outdated Narcotics Control
Act and Food and Drugs Act;
co-ordination among federal organizations and with provinces to improve
regulatory control of drug use;
federal capacity for drug identification, analysis and monitoring;
policies concerning illegal supply of drugs in Canada.
To improve the
knowledge base in the drug abuse field:
research on patterns and trends in the drug abuse field and on prevention and
A study and
recommendations on priority data needs.
To ensure a
long-term commitment to the drug abuse field where long-term solutions are
A Task Force to
review different means of ensuring that provincial expertise and experience can
be made available for the benefit of the country as a whole and to ensure
national ongoing commitment to promoting the study and prevention of drug abuse.
strengthened and co-ordinated drug law enforcement:
of the RCMP’s drug intelligence capabilities and liaison with other forces;
approach to improved coastal enforcement against drug smuggling;
co-ordination of drug law enforcement at the federal level as well as between
federal and provincial organizations.
To help take
the profit out of illegal drug trafficking:
the RCMP’s Anti-Drug Profiteering Program and improved public awareness of
program activities and objectives;
techniques for tracing illicit funds will be developed.
Canada’s international efforts:
training in drug enforcement for police officers of selected drug source or
improved public awareness and information about drug abuse:
An expansion in
the RCMP’s capacity across the country to promote drug awareness.
To address the
problems of drug abuse in federal correctional institutions:
A study will be
undertaken on drug use among inmates and on the effectiveness of current
treatment programs in correctional institutions;
control in penitentiaries;
programs for inmates with drug abuse problems to help them cope better after
prevention through training for staff and development of information programs
Canada Customs’ capacity to interdict illegal drugs entering Canada:
Canada Customs resources to strengthen capability in the critical areas of
targeting and examination of high-risk cargo shipments and travellers in all
modes of transportation, and of high-risk mail;
acquisition of X-ray equipment to increase drug detection capabilities during
the examination of cargo, baggage and mail;
the Canada Customs Detector Dog Service to provide service in all Customs
regions across Canada, and increase our present capabilities at high-volume
points of entry;
training to Customs Inspectors in the identification of drug couriers and
high-risk commercial shipments: this training will increase the awareness of
Customs Inspectors relating to the identification of indicators
(characteristics) that may be present during the examination of a person or
Canada Customs involvement in the Crime Stoppers programs of municipal police
forces across Canada;
with airlines and shipping companies engaged in the international transport of
people and goods, with a view to Canada Customs obtaining assistance in the
detection of illicit drugs destined for Canada;
with foreign Customs services in targeting in-transit drug couriers.
appropriate immigration policies:
immigration policy on drug traffickers.
To ensure that
Canada plays an active role in international forums on drug abuse:
active participation at the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit
Trafficking to be held in Vienna, 17-26 June 1987;
the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances;
Canada’s contribution to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control
(UNFDAC) to a target level of $1 million by 1991;
reduction of drug abuse as a factor in considering requests for assistance under
Official Development Assistance;
Hosting of an
international conference of experts on Recommended Methods for Testing Drugs of
public awareness and information:
Canadians travelling abroad about the hazards of illicit drug possession in
of crime components
To take the
profit out of illicit drug trafficking:
Crime legislation to reduce the profitability of drug trafficking.
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) was created by an act of Parliament in
1988. It is a non-governmental organization with the aim to promote “increased
awareness on the part of Canadians of matters relating to alcohol and drug abuse
and their increased participation in the reduction of harm associated with such
abuse, and to promote the use and effectiveness of programs of excellence that
are relevant to alcohol and drug abuse.”
This is to be done by:
supporting consultation and co-operation among governments, the business
community and labour, professional and voluntary organizations in matters
relating to alcohol and drug abuse;
the effective exchange of information on alcohol and drug abuse;
and contributing to the development and application of knowledge and expertise
in the alcohol and drug abuse field;
assisting in the development of realistic and effective policies and programs
aimed at reducing the harm associated with alcohol and drug abuse; and
increased awareness among Canadians of the nature and extent of international
efforts to reduce alcohol and drug abuse, and supporting Canada's participation
in those efforts.
the CCSA was created to provide a national focus and leadership in the area of
reducing the harm associated with alcohol and other drug abuse. It works closely
with federal and provincial partners, both governmental and non-governmental. As
the NDS indicated, the government had recognized that a coordinated response
including all partners was required if long-term solutions were to be found.
Co-operation and coordination between all partners is a key function of the
CCSA works with the private sector, provincial addiction agencies, and many
special interest groups to make it possible for all Canadians to benefit from
the best prevention programs. One way of doing this is by keeping people working
in the field in touch with what’s happening across the country.
is primarily responsible for providing “credible, objective information and
policies on addiction to the federal government, the not-for-profit and private
sectors, and provincial/territorial and municipal governments.”
It has set out the following seven goals:
Goal 1: To
monitor significant research and policy developments, and to provide informed
comment on issues of national significance.
Goal 2: To
maintain and continually improve national information on the nature, extent and
consequences of substance abuse, and problem gambling in Canada.
Goal 3: To
monitor significant programs and practices, and contribute to the identification
and dissemination of best practices.
Goal 4: To
develop a communications strategy that includes a series of focused activities
and information products aimed at increasing the awareness of Canadians of
addictions issues, and influencing and informing CCSA’s key target audiences.
Goal 5: To
develop, co-ordinate and support networks that facilitate the sharing and
application of information and expertise.
Goal 6: To
maintain an efficient and responsive information and reference service.
Goal 7: To
organize the policy, administrative and human resource functions in an effective
and financially responsible manner.
An important contribution of the CCSA is the establishment of a
Clearinghouse on Substance Abuse, which links all major sources of information
on alcohol and other drugs in a single computer network.
CCSA, which is within the portfolio of the Minister of Health, is structured as
a corporation, with a chair and a board of directors. It is funded by the NDS
and through its own revenue-generating efforts. The CCSA was originally
allocated an annual $2 million of core funding but the cuts that occurred
as a result of Program Review in 1997 reduced its core funding to $500 000.
This necessitated the release of almost all full-time staff. Michel Perron, the
CCSA’s chief executive officer, indicated that the budget cuts affected the
CCSA’s ability to carry out its mandate.
1997, the CCSA has basically survived by working for a number of departments on
contract. Those contracts ensured our survival, but significantly hindered our
efforts to fulfill our legal mandate in a proactive way. 
2002, the government increased the CCSA’s core funding to $1.5 million.
We were told that, with this increase, the CCSA can stabilize its activities and
Canada runs a lower risk of losing its only collective memory as well as the
only drug addiction specialists working at the federal level.
1990, Canada’s Drug Strategy Secretariat was given the mandate to coordinate
activities within the federal government and with other governments (both
nationally and internationally). The secretariat was given many
responsibilities, including ensuring the visibility of the NDS, coordinating the
evaluation of the NDS and examining the issue of substance abuse from a
strategic standpoint. One of its key responsibilities was to act as a
important function of the Secretariat is to serve as an information source, a
central point of entry to the federal government directing those with questions
toward people with the answers. Members of the Secretariat also provide advice
from outside groups to the federal partners. They attempt to bring groups
together to facilitate issues of common concern. 
Secretariat was disbanded in 1996 during Phase II of the strategy. In the
evaluation of Phase II of the CDS, it was suggested that the function of
overseeing the coordination should be given to a body that is not an integral
part of one of the partner departments–otherwise, such a body would be in a
potential or perceived conflict of interest.
In the past, some had regarded the Secretariat as representing primarily the
interest of Health Canada rather than representing the drug strategy itself.
the Office of Canada’s Drug Strategy is the focal point within the federal
government for the drug strategy. It describes itself as follows:
Office of Canada's Drug Strategy of Health Canada is the focal point within the
federal government for harm reduction, prevention, and treatment and
rehabilitation initiatives concerning alcohol and other drugs issues. Our
efforts aim to prevent the use of drugs by those not currently using them,
reduce the harm for those who use them, and promote effective and innovative
treatment and rehabilitation for those affected by substance abuse. The Office
works collaboratively with other federal departments and provincial and
territorial governments, and provides national leadership and co-ordination on
substance abuse issues, conducts research into the risk factors and root causes
of substance abuse, synthesizes and disseminates leading-edge information and
best practices to key partners, and collaborates with multilateral organizations
to address the global drug problem. 
Auditor General, in her 2001 Report, indicated that there are limits on Health
Canada’s authority as coordinator and recommended that the government “review
the current mechanisms for leadership and co-ordination within the federal
government as well as mechanisms for co-ordination with provincial/territorial
and municipal governments in addressing the problem of illicit drugs.”
We agree with the Auditor General’s assessment and recommend the creation of a
position of National Drug Advisor, responsible for ensuring interdepartmental
co-ordination at the federal level. In addition, the CCSA would be given a
coordinating role with respect to the provinces and territories, cities and with
research bodies and universities.
to determine the future of the NDS, the federal government undertook a national
consultation process in March and April 1991. The purpose of the consultations,
held with local and provincial partners, was to prepare for the possible renewal
of the NDS, obtain information on the strengths and weaknesses of the strategy
and identify renewal priorities. During the consultations, alcohol abuse was
identified as the major problem in Canada, and the abuse and misuse of
pharmaceuticals was the second most frequently mentioned concern. Tobacco use
was also seen as a major substance abuse and health problem. Street drugs, while
still a concern, were not a major worry of those consulted. It was noted that
cannabis use continued to be widespread.
the consultations advocated incorporating the Driving While Impaired (DWI)
Strategy into the NDS, and there was also strong support for a comprehensive
national alcohol policy. It was also suggested that use of steroids by athletes
and youth be included in the NDS. Finally, others called for a comprehensive
tobacco policy and for tobacco’s inclusion within the NDS. A long-term
commitment to the drug strategy was one of the issues stressed by the
address many problems in substance abuse, participants in the consultation
process stressed the need for a long-term commitment to CDS. Substance abuse has
been a problem since the dawn of time. To expect significant changes in the
level and nature of substance abuse over a five, or even a ten, year period is
not realistic. The impact of initiatives to counteract the problem of substance
abuse may not be visible for generations. Therefore, CDS must become an ongoing
program with political and government support and endorsement. Bringing about
fundamental long-term societal changes in attitude and behaviour requires base
funding, without a sunset provision. 
the NDS was renewed under the designation Canada’s Drug Strategy (CDS).
Funding was increased to $270 million over the five-year period and the Strategy
principally involved six federal departments.
As had been suggested, the DWI Strategy became a component of CDS, although the
same could not be said for tobacco. Once again, CDS called for a balanced
approach to reducing both the demand for drugs and their supply. The funding was
to be allocated as follows: prevention (30%); treatment (30%); enforcement and
control (28%); information and research (5%); national focus (5%); and
international co-operation (1%). According to Health Canada, over the five-year
period, about $104.4 million was actually provided.
In fact, resources that were originally approved were almost immediately
reduced, and this reduction continued over the course of CDS as a result of
renewing CDS, the federal government acknowledged the concerns of stakeholders
and stated that solutions to substance abuse require long-term commitment–that
to expect significant changes over five or even ten years was not realistic.
Thus, it was stated that CDS should become an ongoing program. In addition, it
was thought that a balanced approach between demand and supply reduction was
critical to the success of CDS. Finally, it was recognized that partnerships
(both governmental and non-governmental) at all levels (locally, nationally and
internationally) were needed.
whole, it was concluded that the strategy was working well and that it was
important to maintain the momentum created by Phase I. The primary and overall
objective of Phase II was to make Canada’s alcohol and other drug
interventions more effective at reducing harm to individuals, families, and
communities caused by the problem use of alcohol and other drugs. This would be
accomplished through the following secondary objectives:
program targeting through a focus on high-risk populations (especially young
children, street kids, dropouts, off-reserve Aboriginals, the unemployed,
seniors and women);
coordination and collaboration across federal departments and with external
partners (provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental
information base on substance abuse-related issues, to assist policy-makers,
program developers, researchers, professionals, and others concerned with
substance abuse issues in addressing this problem; and
resources that would enable departments to continue certain ongoing activities
and redirect attention to emerging issues or new activities.
decision to renew CDS was accompanied by a requirement for its evaluation. In
June 1997 a report evaluating Phase II of CDS was published by Health Canada.
Its main findings were as follows:
program targeting was implemented in all participating departments, with
justifiable variation according to their respective mandates;
coordination at the working level and for task-specific initiatives was
effective. However, interdepartmental co-ordination at the strategic planning
level was identified as a concern over the course of Phase II and would not
appear to have been resolved (clear coordination goals were not identified, nor
was the role of the CDS Secretariat properly defined);
CDS did not
have national visibility at either political or public levels;
available in Canada on the issue of substance abuse increased as a result of
Phase II funding;
resources were increased through Phase II. However, there were significant
subsequent cuts to some departmental budgets that may have limited the potential
achievements of Phase II; and
resources were used in a manner consistent with a harm reduction approach,
although a formal harm reduction policy was not in place during the course of
report also identified effective leadership, coordination and strategic planning
as essential to the strategy, and found weaknesses in these areas during Phase
II. In addition, a common vision and a set of clear and measurable objectives
were also found to be fundamental requisites. Lack of accountability for
strategy-wide objectives was also identified as a problem. As will be discussed
later, most of these issues were again raised as concerns in 2001 (five years
later) by the Auditor General of Canada
coordinate the strategy, two groups were established at the federal level, both
chaired by Health Canada: the Assistant Deputy Ministers’ Steering Committee
on Substance Abuse, and the Interdepartmental Working Group on Substance Abuse.
Their purpose has been described as follows:
Steering Committee is mandated to meet at least twice a year to improve the
overall effectiveness of the strategy and provide direction to the Working
Group. Its aims are to co-ordinate federal activities, develop consensus on
priorities, address emerging issues, and monitor implementation of the federal
III – Renewal without specified funding
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
(CDSA) was enacted. This legislation formed part of CDS; it was focused,
according to the government, on modernizing and enhancing the drug abuse control
policy underlying the previous legislation and on fulfilling Canada’s
international obligations. It should be noted that since the introduction of the
CDSA, most changes to federal legislation dealing with illicit drugs have
focused on supply reduction.
CDS was renewed in principle but without any specified funding, despite warnings
of possible negative consequences. An evaluation of Health Canada’s
contributions to CDS stated that:
must conclude that short-term initiatives such as the CDS Phase II are useful in
that they inspire a higher sense of priority for a certain issue; at the same
time, they hold inherent disadvantages in addressing an issue such as substance
abuse, that is widely recognized to require a longer-term intervention than
time-limited initiative funding will allow. 
following was also added:
CDS Phase II Health Canada Component made a considerable investment in research
and program development, and information monitoring systems. In many areas,
Health Canada is now poised to reap benefits from the knowledge gained –
however it is feared that this will not be the case due to non-renewal.
are also concerns that the sunsetting of the Health Canada component of the CDS
will not only leave a void but see the balance in the federal harm reduction
policy list too far in the direction of supply reduction, and that Canada’s
international credibility will also suffer. 
signatories were limited to federal departments and agencies, with Health Canada
again responsible for providing national leadership and coordination. CDS still
states that it reflects a balance between reducing the supply of drugs and
reducing the demand for drugs. The long‑term goal of the strategy remains
unchanged: it is to reduce the harm associated with alcohol and other drugs to
individuals, families and communities. The goals of CDS are to:
demand for drugs;
drug-related mortality and morbidity;
effectiveness of and accessibility to substance abuse information and
supply of illicit drugs and reduce the profitability of illicit drug
costs of substance abuse to Canadian society.
strategy states that it is built on four pillars: prevention; enforcement and
control; treatment and rehabilitation; and harm reduction. Within this general
framework, seven separate components have been identified: research and
knowledge development; knowledge dissemination; prevention programming;
treatment and rehabilitation; legislation, enforcement and control; national
coordination; and international co-operation.
Strategy and Controlled Substances Program, within the Healthy Environments and
Consumer Safety Branch of Health Canada, currently spends $34 million
annually on substance abuse.
The Office of Canada’s Drug Strategy currently manages $16.5 million of the
$34-million total budget. The Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation
program, which was originally managed by HRDC, was transferred to Health Canada
in October 1997. It is currently managed by the Office of Canada’s Drug
Strategy, which provides $14 million to the provinces for treatment and
rehabilitation programs. The other $2.5 million is allocated to the CCSA ($1.5
million) and for research and program management ($1.0 million). The remaining
$17.5 million is allocated by the Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety
Branch as follows: administration of regulations other than the Marijuana
Medical Access Regulations ($5.0 million); Medical Marijuana Program ($5.0
million); drug analytical services ($4.5 million); policy, research and
international affairs ($3.0 million).
Canada does spend other resources on substance abuse through the department’s
varied activities. For example, the Population and Public Health Branch
allocates resources to deal with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, and to deal with
section does not claim to provide an in-depth analysis of CDS since its
implementation and development in 1987. Certain key objectives, however, will be
reviewed in order to determine whether or not the CDS can be deemed a success.
It is important to note that, despite the considerable amounts of money spent at
the federal level to control psychoactive substances, many would argue that
Canada does not even have a funded national drug strategy.
1997 the government implemented “Program Review”, and severe financial cuts
were applied to all departments, including Health Canada. The drug strategy did
not escape these cuts and it sunset in 1997. In fact, there has been very little
new money from the federal government for the field of addictions since.
currently has no national strategy. We therefore simply do not have research
data to guide us. In fact, no one knows the extent of drug consumption or
prevalence in Canada because no national inquiry has been done since 1994. We
therefore have to come up with hypotheses and resort to other tools to get a
picture of the current situation in Canada. 
mentioned, research, knowledge development and knowledge dissemination are
severely lacking in Canada, despite the fact that these are intended to be key
components of the CDS. A more complete analysis of these deficiencies in
knowledge development and dissemination is set out in Chapter 6. To
summarize, Canada has not given itself the means to conduct proper research and
to acquire knowledge in this field. For example, only two general national drug
surveys have been conducted - in 1989 and 1994. Much of the problem with respect
to research and knowledge development can be attributed to the almost
non-existent funding allocated to the CCSA. Considering the importance of the
CCSA’s role in knowledge development and the costs of substance abuse in
Canada, it is clear that its funding has been totally inadequate over the years.
The recent increase to its core funding may temporarily stop the bleeding but
will not allow Canada to acquire the tools necessary to conduct vital and
necessary research in this area.
has, since its implementation, stated that it reflects a balance between
reducing the supply of drugs and reducing the demand for drugs. While such
policy objectives are easy to pronounce, they have not been reflected in
reality. The Auditor General has recently indicated that, of the approximately
$500 million spent annually by 11 departments or agencies at the federal level
to address illicit drug use in Canada, roughly 95% is spent on supply reduction.
Notwithstanding the division of constitutional powers in Canada, one would be
hard pressed to argue that this allocation of funds represents a balanced
of the key objectives of the CDS is to ensure coordination and collaboration
across all federal departments and with the provinces and municipalities. The
Auditor General has recently criticized the leadership provided at the federal
level and recommended a drug strategy with sound co-ordination and with clear
objectives and results.
requires stronger leadership and more consistent co-ordination to set a
strategy, common objectives, and collective performance expectations. It must be
able to respond quickly to emerging concerns about illicit drug use or the
illicit drug trade. The present structure for leadership and for co-ordination
of federal efforts needs to be reviewed and improved. The mechanisms for
co-ordination with the provinces and municipalities also need review since they
cross three levels of government. 
the obvious weaknesses of the CDS is the failure to provide comprehensive
evaluations of its objectives. For example, we are unaware of any evaluations of
the prevention and treatment programs that have been funded by the federal
government. This lack of evaluation is an overall concern.
the federal government provides leadership and co-ordination for dealing with
the illicit drug problem, it has not produced any comprehensive reports that
demonstrate how well Canada is managing the problem. It would be logical for
Health Canada, as the lead department, to report government-wide results of
Canada's efforts to reduce the demand for and the supply of illicit drugs. 
summary, it would be difficult to declare the CDS a success when we do not even
have the tools needed to determine whether or not the objectives of the strategy
have been satisfied. The current strategy has, at the very least, many
fundamental weaknesses. As several critics have argued one must question whether
we in fact even have a comprehensive drug strategy in Canada.
recognize that the federal government cannot act alone if it is to deal
effectively with substance abuse problems, our conclusions with respect to a
national strategy regarding psychoactive substances are generally limited to the
role played at the federal level.
Conclusions of Chapter 11
urgently needs a comprehensive and coordinated national drug strategy for
which the federal government provides sound leadership.
future national drug strategy should incorporate all psychoactive
substances, including alcohol and tobacco.
successful, a national drug strategy must involve a partnership with all
levels of government and also with non-governmental organizations.
years, the intermittency of funding has diminished the ability to
co-ordinate and implement the strategy; adequate resources and a long-term
commitment to funding are needed if the strategy is to be successful.
objectives for the strategy must be set out, and comprehensive evaluations
of these objectives and the results are required.
developmental stage, there is a need to identify clear and shared criteria
funding for the CCSA has been insufficient for it to carry out its
mandate; adequate funding for the CCSA is essential.
a need for an independent organization – the CCSA – to conduct
national surveys at least every second year; there is also a need to
achieve some level of consistency, comparability and similar time frames
for provincially based school surveys.
at the federal level should be given to a body that is not an integral
part of one of the partner departments.
Drug Strategy’s should adopt a balanced approach – 90% of federal
expenditures are currently allocated to supply reduction.
A discussion of Canada’s legislative history in regard to
psychoactive substances can be found in Chapter 12.
Giffen, P.J., Endicott, S. and S. Lambert, (1991) Panic and Indifference: The Politics of Canada’s Drug Laws,
Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, page 587.
Government of Canada, News Release, Federal
Government Launches Co-ordinated Action on Drug Abuse, 25 May 1987.
Government of Canada, Action on
Drug Abuse: Making a Difference, 1988, page 5.
Giffen, P.J., op. cit.,
Government of Canada, Action on
Drug Abuse: Making a Difference, 1988, page 7.
From 1987 to 1991, an additional $19.5 million was provided for the
Driving While Impaired (DWI) Strategy. The DWI strategy included national
awareness programs, driver education curricula, national surveys and
hundreds of local initiatives aimed at making drinking and driving socially
unacceptable to Canadians.
of Canada, National Drug Strategy:
Prevention, Treatment, Research, Control Components, 25 May, 1987.
Government of Canada, National
Drug Strategy: Enforcement Components, 26 May 1987.
Government of Canada, National
Drug Strategy: Interdiction Components, 27 May 1987.
Government of Canada, National
Drug Strategy: International Components, 28 May 1987.
Government of Canada, National
Drug Strategy: Proceeds of Crime Components, 29 May 1987.
Canadian Centre on Substance
Abuse Act, R.S., 1985, c. 49 (4th Supp.), s. 3.
Government of Canada, Canada’s
Drug Strategy, 1991, page 4.
Report of the Auditor General
of Canada to the House of Commons, 2001, Chapter 11, “Illicit Drugs:
The Federal Government’s Role”, page 6.
Michel Perron, Executive Director, Canadian Centre on Substance
Abuse, Proceedings of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Senate of
Canada, first session of the thirty-seventh Parliament 2001-2002, 10 June
2002, Issue no. 22, page 69.
Government of Canada, Canada’s
Drug Strategy - Phase II: A situation paper, Canada, 1994, pages 11-12.
Health Canada, Evaluation of
Canada’s Drug Strategy: Final Report, June 1997, page 22.
Information regarding the Office of Canada’s Drug Strategy can be
found on the Health Canada web site at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/cds-sca/cds/about.html
(revised: 1 December 2000).
Report of the Auditor General
of Canada to the House of Commons, 2001, Chapter 11, “Illicit Drugs:
The Federal Government’s Role”, page 24.
Government of Canada, Canada’s
Drug Strategy: Consultations 1991, page 7. For more information on
comments made regarding supply issues, demand issues and the role and impact
of CDS, see pages 3-7.
and Welfare Canada, Solicitor General Canada, Revenue Canada (Customs and
Excise), Labour Canada, External Affairs and International Trade Canada and
Lynch, Director General, Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme,
Health Canada, Proceedings of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Senate
of Canada, first session of the thirty-seventh Parliament 2001-2002, 10 June
2002, Issue no. 22, page 27.
Government of Canada, Canada’s
Drug Strategy – Phase II, 1992, page 3.
Health Canada, Evaluation of
Canada’s Drug Strategy: Final Report, June 1997, p. iv.
Report of the Auditor General
of Canada to the House of Commons, 2001, Chapter 11, “Illicit Drugs:
The Federal Government’s Role”, page 6.
Canada, Evaluation of Health
Canada’s Contributions to Canada’s Drug Strategy: Final Report,
December 1996, pages 33-34.
Ibid., pages 34-35.
Government of Canada, Canada’s
Drug Strategy, 1998, pages 4-5.
While CDS deals with both licit and illicit substances, a separate
strategy has been developed to identify specific approaches to tobacco.
This does not include expenditures made by the First Nations and
Inuit Health Branch, which total approximately $70 million.
Health Canada, Presentation to the Special Committee on Illegal
Drugs, 10 June 2002.
Michel Perron, loc. cit.,
Report of the Auditor
General of Canada to the House of Commons
2001, Chapter 11 – Illicit Drugs: The Federal Government’s Role, page 1.
 Ibid., page 22.
have been prohibited for fewer than one hundred years; cannabis for slightly
more than 75. It is tempting to think that the decisions made over the years to
use criminal law to fight the production and use of certain drugs are in keeping
with social progress and the advancement of scientific knowledge about drugs.
But is this really
the case? Is civilization one long march towards progress, towards greater, and
increasingly invincible, rationality? If we consider the state of the planet and
the alarms sounded by more than one scientist today, we may have our doubts.
From a social standpoint, the twentieth century has not brought fewer wars, less
destruction, or more equality between people than previous centuries. With
respect to drugs, is the legislation a more or less faithful translation of
scientific knowledge for the greater good of all? Can we discern a rational
structure in the national laws and international conventions that govern certain
drugs and other substances? Are they based on knowledge of the effects of drugs
on the psyche and human behaviour? Do they reflect the desire to ensure the
well-being of the public?
of legislation governing illegal drugs in Canada, like the analysis in Chapter 19
of the structure of international conventions, suggests that this is highly
doubtful. We do not deny that knowledge has advanced; the second part of our
report testifies to this. But scientific knowledge itself is a structure that
develops in a given historical context and responds to paradigms in the way
problems are posed and research is conducted. The dominant scientific positivism
is a temporary result in the long evolution of knowledge. It is not the “end of
Within the scientific process, a “selection” is made of pertinent questions and ways in which to ask them, such that
any question is not necessarily a good question and certain ways of answering
are more acceptable to the community of researchers.
adopted by parliaments is influenced at least as much by prejudices and
preconceptions resulting from “pop science” as by partisan, personal
and international considerations. In this sense, the parliamentarian is no
different from any other citizen, as we pointed out in the report’s general
We were told several
times that we could not compare the effects of cannabis to those of alcohol or
tobacco. And yet, even at the risk of being unreadable if not unacceptable to
the community, public policy on “drugs”
must propose some rationale of the type: “this is prohibited,
because…, and this is not, because…”.
Most of the time the “reason” – or the
justification? – is presented as risks or dangers on the one hand and as
medical usefulness on the other. Thus, under the current control regime, because
of the risks or dangers they are believed to present, some drugs must be
regulated, that is, they are not sold over the counter. When they present a
danger and they have no known medical
application, the regulatory controls prohibit their manufacture, production,
growth, use, possession, etc., entirely. That is the case with the legislation
and conventions governing opium and its derivatives (heroin), the coca plant and
its derivatives (cocaine, crack) and the cannabis plant and its derivatives
(marijuana, hashish). When the drug presents a danger but is medically useful,
it is subject to more or less severe regulatory controls. That is the case with
benzodiazepines and other powerful medications, which are sold by pharmacists
and cannot be obtained without a medical prescription. Other drugs present a “health risk”: nicotine, alcohol, as
well as several other over-the-counter drugs. The packaging must indicate the
risks (except for alcohol – which is very telling) so as to “warn” the user.
To what extent is
such reasoning really rational?
researchers at the University of Toronto (Lazarou, Pomeranz, Corey, 1998) have
estimated that correctly
prescribed legal medications kill,
on average, 100,000 people a year in North America. Although for methodological
reasons that figure was cut back by one half or two thirds, it nonetheless
illustrates the enormous losses of human life that go undetected by any
monitoring system, including the legal system. No one thinks that this danger
should be avoided by prohibiting medical prescriptions - the risky decisions
made by physicians - or denying the "right to use" medications. Why?
Because we do not see how that solution could be preferable to the solution of
taking risks responsibly. Knowing that this problem exists, we will try to find
other solutions, such as better quality control for the products, etc. Nor
(fortunately) do we consider assigning criminal responsibility to physicians for
taking the risk of writing a correct prescription, knowing that even correctly
prescribed medications can cause death. 
The 2001 report from
the International Narcotics Control Board indicates a “worrisome” increase in the abuse of
various prescription drugs in the United States and notes that several of these
medications are found on the black market, in particular through the Internet.
causes more than 400,000 deaths a year in the United States, and approximately
45,000 in Canada. As for alcohol, it is linked to physical aggression and
violence, especially marital, and to road accidents, and its abuse causes
thousands of deaths each year.
is a mistake to see illegal drugs in a separate category from the legal drugs
insofar as the history of criminalization is concerned. We have compounded that
difficulty today because we do not tend to see the legal drugs in the same
limelight as the illegal drugs. To demonstrate that, we use the phrase
"alcohol and drugs" as if alcohol were not a drug, as if police
officers who go to domestic disputes do not know already that the major drug
problem they will likely find at that dispute is alcohol abuse, as if we do not
already know that more than 70 per cent of all homicides involve alcohol abuse
as a critical factor. For us to pretend that the consumption of alcohol is on a
morally different plane from the consumption of illegal drugs seems to be a kind
of cultural folly that speaks volumes about the cultural blinders we wear as we
go about our business in everyday life. 
Is the rationale of
the system of controls acceptable in the eyes of civil society, users as well as
abstainers? What criteria motivated the legislators’ decisions? For that
matter, were there any criteria? What motivated parliamentarians from Canada and
elsewhere to prohibit certain substances, to control access to certain others,
and to permit still others to be sold over the counter?
Knowing where you
have been helps you to understand where you are going. That is the goal of this chapter, which retraces the
evolution of Canadian drug laws from 1908 to the present day.
We have identified three legislative periods. The first, and longest,
spans the years from 1908 to 1960. That is the period of hysteria. The second,
which is much shorter, runs from 1961 to 1975 and is the period involving the
search for lost reason. Lastly, the contemporary period, which really starts at
the beginning of the 1980s, is the period of forging ahead regardless. As it
would be too much to describe the different sections in the various bills
adopted over the years, we have appended a table that explains and presents the
clauses of the legislation adopted from 1908 to 1996 on the control of
At the time of the
Shanghai Conference on opium in
European societies had known for hundreds of years about opium, coca leaves, and
cannabis, having discovered them through contact with other societies. These “drugs”
were used in medical practice, as well as by a certain worldly or artistic
elite, and especially as a commercial tool by colonial powers. In the midst of
advances in chemistry, the 19th century saw the arrival of a large
number of new drugs–primarily opiate-based–and their enthusiastic adoption
by physicians, pharmacists, general store owners and traveling salesmen as
miracle elixirs. What happened so that Canada in 1908, and the seven countries
gathered in Shanghai in 1909, decided to prohibit this “drug”? At
least four factors figured in the game of chance and necessity that led to
First of all,
geopolitical issues, commercial dealings with China in particular and the
political stability of the Middle Kingdom in general, played a considerable
role, as shown in Chapter 19. But from a domestic standpoint, these factors
do not explain everything, especially since the concerns of the Dominion of
Canada and its people about international politics were still relatively minor.
noticed, sometimes from their own experience as a user, that use of opium
derivatives resulted in a certain degree of dependence and health problems.
At first, these cases of drug addiction were limited to the leisured classes and
to artists, who were rarely labeled as “delinquents”. However, the increasing
availability of these drugs
and the subsequent development of dependence problems within the working classes
had a profound effect on public opinion about these drugs. There was no longer
talk of “the
but rather of “delinquents”
who [translation] “could
not face up to the demands of life as a good citizen and worker”.
A few doctors, worried about protecting their monopoly, did not hesitate to
demand laws from the government to restrict the use of drugs produced by
pharmaceutical companies and thus avoid the propagation of this “scourge” that
threatened the foundation of North American society.
Even though the use
of opium did not result in a social crisis before the beginning of the 1880s,
whites who frequented Chinese opium dens were often seen as suspicious or
dangerous. At the time, [translation]“Frequenting
the Chinese quarter and its opium dens is seen by several moral groups as a
preference for the foreign, as willingly straying from white Anglo-Saxon values.
This judgment is even more severe where women are concerned.” 
Associated with the
problem of alcoholism in the working classes, the question of the use of drugs
then became the metaphor par excellence for the decay of western Judeo-Christian
civilization, and the favourite theme of temperance leagues in the United States
as well as Canada. Born in the 19th century, these movements had a
very strong religious basis, especially in the protestant ethic of
responsibility for personal health through work and self control: [translation]“work
and sobriety were valued as a means to avoid loss of production and to maintain
the economic superiority of the white Anglo-Saxon race.”
Waging “war” against alcohol that
causes male violence and adultery, against drugs that kill young people, and
also against prostitution, cigarettes and gambling suited these movements
From community support groups designed to help those who wanted to break their
bad habits, these leagues transformed themselves into powerful pressure groups
demanding the complete prohibition of alcohol first, and then supporting the
prohibition of opium and other drugs.
factor, closely related to the previous two, was population movement and
especially Chinese immigration – it would be more accurate to talk about the
importation of Chinese workers. The Chinese had immigrated to the United States
in the middle of the 19th century to work in the mines and build the railroads
in the American West. Once these large projects were completed, certain labour
disputes broke out on the American West Coast, pitching the Chinese, who offered
cheap labour to owners of agricultural enterprises, against powerful unions,
largely composed of white workers. Following the appearance of the union-based
anti-Chinese movement and legislation that prevented any further Chinese
immigration, many Chinese had no choice but to develop the opium trade in the
ghettos where they lived in large American cities. The temperance movement did
not hesitate to adopt the racist feeling driving certain segments of American
society in order to denounce the use of opium, seen as a scourge that promoted
immorality, crime and the decline of the white Anglo-Saxon race. It was in this
context of social unrest, although limited to the American West Coast, that the
first American legislation governing the opium trade was adopted.
In Canada, in the
middle of the 19th century, the Chinese became a major source of manpower for
building the Canadian Pacific Railway. As the economy of British Columbia
diversified, these immigrants found work in fish processing plants, coal mines
and the forestry industry, although the jobs available to them remained limited.
This worsened the competitiveness of the local labour market and increased their
marginalization in society.
Beginning in the 1880s, the massive influx of Chinese juxtaposed with the
economic slowdown brought on by the end of construction of the Canadian Pacific
railway and the economic recession that marked the end of the 19th century
and the early years of the 20th century caused several union and
popular demonstrations demanding the end of Chinese immigration, the source of
British Columbia’s economic and moral problems.
According to Giffen,
this fear was not justified since white immigration from other regions of Canada
more than offset the increase in British Columbia’s Chinese population. In
fact, the proportion of Chinese in the province declined from 20% at the
beginning of the 1880s to less than 6% in 1921,
just before a clause in the Opium and
Narcotic Drug Act was adopted authorizing the deportation of an immigrant
found guilty of a drug-related offence.
for the habit of smoking opium lasted only as long as British Columbia’s
tolerance for the Chinese. In the early years of the twentieth century, both a
labour surplus and anti-Asian resentment developed. The Asiatic Exclusion League
was formed, supported by an amalgamation of the Vancouver Trades and Labour
Council and federal Conservative politicians. Opposed to the Liberals’
immigration policies [under Sir Wilfrid Laurier], the league demanded an end to
immigration from Asia, claiming that the “yellow peril” was about to
“swallow” a white British Columbia. 
In fact, well before
the development of this “social crisis”, the British Columbia government had tried to halt Asian immigration by
adopting the Chinese Immigration Act
in 1884, which imposed an annual tax of $10 on the Chinese and other Asians
living in British Columbia and prohibited them from buying land belonging to the
province. The federal government disallowed this Act, but in 1885 it created a
Royal Commission to investigate Chinese immigration and this commission
recommended imposing a $10 entry tax on every Asian immigrant. In 1885, as a
result of public pressure, the federal government adopted the Chinese
Immigration Act, which imposed a $50 entry tax that was increased to $500 in
1904, as many had criticized the fact that despite the imposed tariff, 20,000
Asians had immigrated to the country between 1889 and 1900.
A major incident in
1907 led the federal government to intervene in matters of Chinese immigration
and labour disputes in British Columbia. During the year, a demonstration
organized by the Asiatic Exclusion League and
attended by more than 10,000 people, most of whom were union workers and
members of the middle class, turned into a riot when the angry crowd headed into
Vancouver’s Chinese district, attacking people and causing serious property
damage. After convincing Prime Minister Laurier of the wisdom of compensating
the Chinese, William L. Mackenzie King, then Deputy Minister of Labour, returned
to Vancouver in the Spring of 1908, where he wrote a report
that would lead to the adoption of the Opium
Act. Based primarily on moral, ethical, political, diplomatic and ethnic
considerations, Mackenzie King’s report, rather than attacking labour disputes
between white and Chinese workers, shifted the problem to opium use by Asian
[…] the amount [of opium] consumed in Canada,
if know, would probably appall the ordinary citizen who is inclined to believe
that the habit is confined to the Chinese, and by them indulged in only to a
limited extent. The Chinese with whom I conversed on the subject, assured me
that almost as much opium was sold to white people as to Chinese, and
that the habit of smoking opium smoking was making headway, not only
among white men and boys, but also among women and girls.
As in the United
States, Chinese immigrants brought with them not only their labour but also
their practice of smoking opium. They preferred this practice to the widespread
habit of white workers of using alcohol and opiate-based drugs to cure illnesses
and to momentarily forget their social and working conditions.
Thus the first opium den opened its doors in Vancouver in 1870. Some Chinese
even opened factories to produce opium for smoking; the opium was then used in
opium dens in Vancouver’s Chinese district or was simply sold to white
clientele. As Professor Boyd mentioned during his testimony before the
equal amounts of smoking opium were sold to whites as to Chinese. If you look
back through the issues of Vancouver Province or the Victoria Times Colonist,
you find advertisements. You do not find any expression of concern or anger
about those smoking opium establishments, but you find advertisements. 
In 1883, there were
three factories producing smoking opium in Victoria and in 1891, there were more
than 10 opium dens in the Chinese districts of large cities in the Canadian
The surge in this industry was beneficial to the British Columbia government
since it imposed a customs tariff on crude opium of 10% to 25%.
If I could
turn back the clock 100 years to Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster, I
could show you opium-smoking factories which were started in the late 1870s and
persisted for 30 years without complaint. The labour surplus and the depression
in the first decade of the 20th century led to concerns that led to the original
legislation. It is noteworthy that the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1908 was
introduced by the Minister of Labour. When he introduced the act, he said,
"We will get some good out of this riot yet," referring to the
anti-Asiatic riot in Vancouver in September of 1907.
today, the idea of illegal drug legislation coming forward from the Minister of
Labour because he or she is seeking to get some good out of a labour crisis on
Canada's West Coast. The situation in California was similar. 
Even though the Royal
Commission of 1885 did not recommend specific measures governing the production
or use of smoking opium, it did indicate that smoking such a substance was a
pagan practice incompatible with the lifestyle of a Christian nation.
According to Line Beauchesne, the crusade against opium that followed this
report gradually resulted in a decline in opium smoking.
The results of an investigation conducted by the American
Pharmaceutical Association in 1903 into drug use claimed that drug
consumption was widespread
throughout American society, but involved two social groups more specifically:
Chinese immigrants and Blacks. This study probably influenced some federal
politicians and temperance movements that used similar arguments until the
beginning of the 1930s to justify the prohibition of opium and other drugs.
In short, while
economic considerations were at the heart of anti-Asian feeling, temperance
movements and religious groups took advantage of the situation to promote their
views, not only in the immediate area of British Columbia but also across the
rest of the country. These events drew the public’s attention to the
“dangers” of opium for Canadian society.
In the House of
Commons on July 10, 1908, the Minister of Labour proposed the adoption of a
motion prohibiting: “the importation,
manufacture and sale of opium for other than medicinal purposes.”
The motion was adopted without
debate. The Minister introduced Bill 205, An
Act to prohibit the importation, manufacture and sale of opium for other than
the medicinal purpose. (Opium Act,
The first section of the Act prohibited the importation of opium without
authorization from the Minister of Customs. Additionally the drug could be used
for medical purposes only. The manufacture, sale and possession for the purpose
of selling crude opium or opium prepared for use by smokers was also prohibited.
Whoever violated these provisions could be found guilty of a criminal offence
punishable by a maximum prison term of three years and/or a minimum fine of $50
and not exceeding $1,000. Even though it prohibited the use of opium, the
legislation was aimed at opium dealers, most of whom were Chinese, and not
users. The bill was given Royal Assent on July 20, 1908.
The enactment of the Opium
Act led to the introduction of 8 new bills intended to make it both more
restrictive and effective on January 26, 1911, Mackenzie King, who had
just become the Minister of Labour, introduced Bill 97, an Act
to prohibit the improper use of Opium and other Drugs (the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act, 1911).
During the deliberations on second reading, Mackenzie King gave three reasons
for introducing the bill: the Shanghai Commission, the panic in Montreal caused
by cocaine use and the need to grant special powers to the police to ensure that
the Act could be enforced effectively. The Shanghai Commission had adopted a
number of non-binding resolutions, including: putting a gradual stop to the
opium smoking habit, with due regard to the specific circumstances of each
country; prohibiting the use of opium and its alkaloids and derivatives
(morphine, heroin, etc.) and other drugs for non-medical purposes; and
prohibiting the export of these substances to countries that prohibited their
No member raised any
objections about the four drugs added to the Schedule to the Act, namely
cocaine, opium, morphine or eucaine. Section 14 of the Act also provided
that the Governor in Council had the power to order any alkaloid, by-product or
drug preparation added to the Schedule when its addition was deemed necessary in
the public interest–a power which still
exists today. The justification given for this was that if the use of a new
drug were to become widespread in society, it would be possible to add it more
quickly to the Schedule than by having to enact new legislation.
Other provisions of the Act related to the use of opium, search powers granted
to the police, orders for the confiscation or restitution of seized drugs and a
reverse onus for cases of simple possession of drugs. The possibility of
requesting that a higher Court issue a writ of certiorari
with respect to prosecutions carried out under this Act was eliminated.
The post-war period
led to a string of major amendments to the offences, penalties, police powers
and criminal procedure provided in the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act. There are
several factors to explain this legislative ferment: the concerns raised by Emily Murphy’s writings about the
extent of the “scourge” of drugs in Canada;
the renewed conflicts between Whites and Asians in British Columbia; the
mobilization of doctors’ and pharmacists’ associations to prevent the Act
from infringing on their activities; the establishment in 1919 of the Department
of Health and the powerful Narcotics Division (the predecessor of the current
(Office of Controlled Substances), which were responsible for enforcing
international conventions on drugs in Canada; the establishment in 1919 of the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), responsible for enforcing the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act; the enactment of the Harrison
Narcotic Act in the United States in 1914; and the mobilization of the
international community to enforce the International
Opium Convention (The Hague - 1912) imposed on a number of countries by the
1919 Treaty of Versailles.
The establishment of the
enactment of the Harrison Narcotic Act
in the United States and the mobilization of the international community to
enforce The Hague Convention quickly brought to light three major shortcomings
of the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act,
first problem appeared when the time came to control drug imports and exports.
The Act had only vague instructions concerning trading in drugs for medical or
scientific purposes. That being the case, customs officials were reluctant to
seize cargo containing opium or other drugs.
second problem stemmed from the enactment in the United States of the Harrison
Narcotic Act, which was similar to the Act passed in Canada in 1911.
However, it imposed a system of licences issued to businesses by the federal
government authorizing them to import or export drugs. This led to a significant
demand for illegal drugs in the United States. As the supply of these substances
in Canada exceeded consumer demand, traffickers quickly took advantage of this
business opportunity and exported their surpluses to the United States. This had
become so profitable that in 1918, a committee of the US Senate filed an
official complaint with the Canadian government concerning drug trafficking.
third and final problem stemmed from the fact that traffickers quickly found
ways to avoid the provisions of the 1911 Act because its enforcement was not
centralized within a single government agency. On the one hand, Customs was
attempting as best it could to control legal trade in drugs whereas on the other
hand, municipal police departments handled illegal trafficking, which was
becoming increasingly sophisticated every year, requiring that new powers be
granted to the police.
amendments to the Act to deal with these problems were orchestrated in part by
F. W. Cowan the first Chief of the new Narcotics Division (1919-1927) of the
Department of Health, and in particular by Colonel C. H. L. Sharman, the former
RCMP officer who succeeded him (1927-1946). Cowan quickly understood after
becoming Chief of the new division that he would have to centralize control over
both legal and illegal trade in drugs to ensure that the Act could be enforced
effectively, thereby assuring the long-term survival of his organization. During
his tenure, an impressive communications network was created, and by the end of
the 20s, it included the other divisions of the Department of Health, the
Department of Justice and the lawyers hired to prosecute drug offences, the
RCMP, the media, municipal police departments, associations representing doctors
and pharmacists, governments and agencies responsible for enforcing the laws of
other countries, including the United States, and international narcotics
control agencies established by the League of Nations.
Sharman’s impetus, the administration of information from all of these participants was eventually conducted
solely by the Division, and no longer by the Department of Justice or the RCMP.
This made it possible for the director to have an overall picture of the
narcotics situation, thereby making him an “expert” in the field.
A former official of the Division described Colonel Sharman as “a
Czar running an empire of his own.”
His influence grew when the Division was placed under the authority of the
Deputy Minister of Health. The reorganization fostered a closer and more direct
relationship with the Minister and Members of Parliament, making it possible for
him to short-circuit proposals from other divisions within the Department. And
when the time came to add further offences, penalties, criminal procedures or
new police powers in the 20s, the Division never hesitated to take advantage of
the “panic” generated by the media in Vancouver, or Emily Murphy’s
writings, to justify such amendments.
standpoint of enforcing the Act, this structure was very useful. For example, up
until the 50s, from the moment a police officer or a lawyer, anywhere in Canada,
informed the Chief of the Division of a weakness in the Act, he would draft
proposed amendments, pass them on to his network for rapid consultation, and if
necessary, he would encourage the Minister of Health to introduce a bill to
correct the problem situation. The federal drug bureaucracy as we know it today
a context, the establishment of a network like this had a significant impact on
the direction that would be taken by Canadian narcotics legislation:
short, the establishment of an administrative organization to enforce narcotic
law had the unintended consequence of creating a centralized pressure group
which had the motivation and influence to play a major role in shaping the
future course of the legislation. This centralization of power and expertise
together with the fact that the resources were directed mainly at a socially
powerless group helps to explain the virtual absence of an effective criticism
and alternative proposals for control from 1920 to 1950. 
Many amendments were
made to the 1911 Act prior to an in-depth overhaul of the Act in 1938. It was
during this period that cannabis was added to the schedule of the Act.
Amendments to list of
substances in schedule: Addition of
1911 to 1938, many drugs were added to the schedule of the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act. The 1911 Act was introduced to control
only four drugs. In 1938, when the Act to
amend the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act
was enacted, the
schedule listed more than 15 drugs, including derivatives or salts, one of which
was cannabis, added in 1923.
sitting of the Committee of the Whole in connection with a review of the 1923
Act, Minister of Health Henri-Séverin Béland simply said about the substance
that, “There is a new drug in the schedule.” 
That is how cannabis ended up in the schedule to the Act. According to Giffen,
the circumstances leading to the decision remain obscure because, until 1932,
the issue of the effects of cannabis on people’s physical, psychological or
mental health had never been raised in Parliament. Giffen described the
criminalization of the drug as a solution without a problem.
United States, beginning in 1890, some American doctors were worried that the
potency of cannabis appeared to be variable and that individual reactions when
cannabis was taken orally appeared to be unpredictable. Thus despite the
continued use of much more dangerous drugs like barbiturates and opiates,
cannabis was abandoned by doctors. At the beginning of the century, the
discovery of the hallucinogenic nature of cannabis contributed considerably to
its reputation as a dangerous drug. However, the people who wrote the Harrison
Narcotic Act had not deemed it appropriate to subject it to the controls
provided in the Act.
But in 1915, California became the first American state to prohibit the use of
marijuana, and in the early 20s, marijuana had “become a major ‘underground
drug’ traced to an influx of Mexican workers into Southern United States in
the 1910s and 1920s.”
As with opium, labour disputes, the economic interests of big business and
morality served as catalysts to create a popular movement in favour of the
prohibition of cannabis in the United States, which led to the passage of the Marijuana
Tax Act in 1937, prohibiting the use and production of cannabis.
in the United States, there were no reliable accounts of the non-medical use of
cannabis in Canada before the 1930s.
And unlike California, Canada was not faced with an influx of Mexican workers.
Why then was cannabis added to the Opium Act schedule?
Emily Murphy referred to the harmful effects of cannabis on human behaviour in
her book The Black Candle, in which
she worked over most of the articles she had published in MacLean’s magazine. In the chapter entitled “Marihuana – A New Menace” she reported comments made by the
Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, who described the terrible effects
Giffen’s research in the archives of the Department of Health indicates that
these scare tactics, which were steeped in morality, were not behind the placing
of cannabis in the Opium and Narcotic Drug
Act schedule, particularly given that at the time, it was virtually unknown
in Canada and its use was not a problem.
This is confirmed in section 7 of the 1932 Act, which amended a provision of the
1920 Act by allowing the manufacture, sale or distribution, without a permit, of
medicines if they contained only small quantities of certain drugs listed in the
schedule. In 1932, the measure would henceforth apply to cannabis. During
parliamentary debate on the
introduction of this statute, the discovery of the existence of this drug
appeared to elicit the interest of certain parliamentarians. During Committee of
the Whole, MP Ernest Lapointe asked the Minister of Health, “What
is cannabis sativa?”, and the Minister replied “Hitherto this was a drug which was not included in the list which might
be used. It is one form of the drug
used in India which, I believe, goes under the popular name of hashish. There is
no objection to the use of it ….”
short, it is remarkable that, over seventy-five years later, we should still not
know why cannabis was placed on the list of prohibited drugs. On the other hand,
no shortage of “reasons” were found in the years that followed.
the influence of American media campaigns, which were taken up by Canadian
newspapers, and of horrifying accounts by police officers about young Canadians
who were physically and mentally destroyed after using cannabis, the attitude of
federal parliamentarians towards the drug would become less and less tolerant.
The 1938 Act, enacted one year after the passage of the Marijuana
Tax Act in the United States, was the end result of this “new panic”.
Section 3 of the Act prohibited anyone from growing cannabis or opium poppy
without first having obtained a permit from the Department of Health. The
penalties for this new offence were the same as those provided for
trafficking in, and simple possession of, cannabis. This measure was
unusual because Canada, for the first time, had climate conditions conducive to
the growing and production of a drug, which it did not for the other drugs in
the schedule. An analysis of
parliamentary debates shows that the Department of Agriculture conducted
scientific experiments on industrial hemp by growing cannabis at the
Experimental Farm in Ottawa and at another research centre near Montreal. A
number of entrepreneurs in Ontario were still growing hemp. The 1938 Act put an
end to the practice.
the introduction of the Bill, Minister of Health Charles Power said in
connection with section 3: “The proposed
amendments deal to a considerable extent with the attempt which is being made by
the department to control what, though it cannot be called a new drug, is a new
menace to the youth of the country”.
Later, he said that it was very dangerous to smoke marijuana cigarettes. To
demonstrate his comment, he cited a report prepared by Harry J. Anslinger, the
first commissioner of the Federal Bureau
of Narcotics, in which the drug was described as, “the
assassin of youth ... one of the greatest menaces which has ever struck that
The Minister of Health nevertheless said that the situation in Canada was not as
serious as in the United States. The statements by the Minister of Health about
the harmfulness of cannabis were not disputed by any members, even though no
research was put forward in defence of the statements made.
important amendments to the schedule were made in 1932, following the enactment
of the Act to amend the Opium and Narcotic
Drug Act, 1932.
In the amendments, over 10 psychoactive substances were added to the schedule,
both natural drugs (like coca leaf) and synthetic drugs. The inclusion of these
substances coincided with the adoption in 1931 of the Geneva
Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of
Narcotic Drugs, with Colonel Sharman making a major contribution to the
negotiations leading to the signing of the convention. It was also at this time
that Canada had begun to play an active role internationally with respect to
drugs in support of the efforts of the United States and Harry J. Anslinger to
better control international drug trafficking, particularly in the producing
the debates on the enactment of the 1932 Act, which would implement the
provisions of the 1931 Convention into Canadian law, no questions were asked of
the Minister of Health, Murray McLaren, concerning the reasons leading the
Minister to include the above-mentioned drugs in the schedule.
Amendment of penalties
penalties for trafficking or illegal possession of narcotic drugs were amended
several times during this period. Furthermore, other offences were created as
trafficking techniques to get around the law became increasingly sophisticated.
According to Giffen, there were several reasons why the authorities responsible
for enforcing the Act wanted more flexibility:
in regard to penalties helped to overcome the reluctance of the courts to
convict in cases of lesser culpability and respectable social status; such cases
were inevitable in the early years when the addict population was still
relatively heterogeneous. Moreover, popular support for the law was more likely
to be maintained if sentences that were regarded as unjust by local people could
be avoided.” 
This flexibility gave
more options to the police and Crown attorneys allowing them to negotiate guilty
pleas more easily, to decide on the type of proceeding or to make use of people
who had been charged as informers or undercover agents by promising them a
reduced sentence or the withdrawal of the charges. In some instances, it also
allowed for minimum sentence thereby reducing the Court’s discretion during
sentencing. The increase in the severity of penalties also sent a clear message to judges about the severity and
level of social reprobation for drug offences. The possibility of proceeding by
summary conviction also reduced the time period between the arrest and the
sentencing. This made it possible to significantly increase the number of
convictions. This was particularly important, because the higher the number of
convictions, the more the people would be able to see the extent of the problem
and the effectiveness of the act.
The 1911 Act provided
for a maximum sentence of imprisonment of one year and/or a maximum fine of
$500. In 1920, after the Act to amend the
Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1920,
a minimum fine of $200 was assessed with the maximum increased to $1,000. In
1921, the Act to amend the Opium and
Narcotic Drug Act, 1921,
significantly amended the penalty for this type of offence. Hybrid offences were
created (summary conviction and indictment) for these two illegal activities.
For an indictment, a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years could be
imposed. For a proceeding by summary conviction, the maximum prison sentence was
increased to 18 months, with the possibility of an additional 12 months
for default of payment of any fine assessed by the Court. In 1922, the Act
to amend the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1922,
amended the sentence of
imprisonment for a summary conviction by providing for the imposition of a
minimum prison sentence of six months. In 1925, Parliament passed an amendment
providing for the imposition, at the judge’s discretion, of a sentence of
forced labour for a summary conviction, for simple possession of a drug.
In 1921, an offence
was created for the sale, gift or distribution of drugs by a trafficker to a
minor. In such cases, one could only proceed by way of indictment and anyone
convicted could receive a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Following a
highly emotional debate, the sentence of whipping, which had been suggested by a
Member, was withdrawn. However, the next year, while reviewing the 1922 Act in
the Committee of the Whole, the same member once again suggested the imposition
of a sentence of whipping for traffickers selling drugs to minors. At the end of
the debate, the Minister of Health agreed to add the penalty of whipping to the
Act. In 1929, federal parliamentarians stated their opinions about extending the
punishment of whipping to trafficking and simple possession of drugs, as
provided for in the Act to amend and
consolidate the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1929.
penalty was introduced in the 1922 Act: the deportation of immigrants. Section 5
of this statute provided that, except as may otherwise be provided in the Immigration
Act, any immigrant convicted of trafficking, simple possession or selling
drugs to a minor could be deported from Canada. From 1922 to 1944, when the last
immigrants were deported for drug offences, over 1,082 Chinese (82%) were
deported, compared to 163 Americans (13%) and 68 other persons of various ethnic
origins (5%), for a total of 1,313 deportations. In 1930, the “panic” in
British Columbia was a thing of the past, but during the previous eight years,
over 638 Chinese had been deported by the Canadian authorities.
There were other
offences as well in the legislation, for example possession of pipes, lamps or
any other equipment for the preparation or use of opium; drug trafficking by
mail; and obtaining drugs by consulting two doctors. Between 1922 and 1930,
7,096 persons were convicted for an offence under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act. Of these, over 4,900 were Chinese, or
1920 to 1930, various amendments to the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act led to the police being granted new powers. These
amendments specifically had to do with powers of search. Section 7 of the 1911
Act provided for the issuance of a search warrant authorizing police officers
who had reasonable grounds to search the following kinds of premises: a
dwelling-house, shop, boutique, warehouse, garden or ship, and to seize drugs
found there as well as any containers in which the drugs had been found. Section 3
of the 1922 Act provided for the possibility of conducting a search for drugs
without a warrant, either during the day or at night, in the above-mentioned
premises. However, police officers were required to have a warrant to search a
of the 1911 Act provided that any drugs seized and the containers in which
the drugs were found could be confiscated and delivered to the Court, and be
destroyed after the accused’s conviction. However, section 9 imposed a
number of conditions on the procedure provided under section 8. Indeed, if
the person charged was acquitted, there was a three-month period during which
the Court could be asked to issue an order to give back the seized drugs. If
they were not claimed during this period, they were to be destroyed. The 1921
Act slightly amended these two provisions by specifying that henceforth, drugs
and the containers in which they were found were to be confiscated and turned
over to the Department of Health, which would dispose of them as it saw fit.
This amendment was deemed necessary by the Narcotics Division because several
judges, rather than order the destruction of the goods, sent them to hospitals. The
Division was afraid that the drugs so returned might fall into the hands of
In 1923, the powers
to search and the orders of forfeiture were extended to vehicles in which drugs
were found. In 1929, this procedure was extended to all traffickers’ vehicles,
whether or not any such substances were found in them. The purpose of this was
to impede the activities of traffickers and to prevent their vehicles from being
used by other criminals after they were convicted. The procedure was later
extended to aircraft. In 1925, Parliament, by enacting the Act
to amend the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1925,
authorized police officers to search any person found on the premises searched,
with or without a warrant.
The 1929 Act granted
special search powers to police officers. Section 22 of this statute allowed a
writ of assistance to be issued to a police officer. This was a general power,
without any restrictions of time or place, to remain valid throughout the career
of the peace officer. Such a writ authorized its recipient to enter a
dwelling-house at any time of the day or night accompanied by whatever persons
were deemed necessary to conduct searches and seize drugs. The writ of
assistance thus made it possible to get around the prohibition on searches and
seizures of drugs in a dwelling-house without a warrant. At the same time, the
Act was amended to authorize police officers, during searches or seizures, with
or without a warrant, to use force if required to conduct a search and to be
assisted by persons other than peace officers.
1920s, another major amendment was introduced to facilitate convictions in drug
cases, a reverse onus provision. The onus was now on the accused, not on Crown
prosecutors, to prove that he had not committed the crime with which he was
charged. Under British criminal law, the task of proving an accused's guilt
traditionally falls on the Crown, hence the expression "presumed innocent
until proven guilty".
of the Act of 1911 provided that, in a prosecution for drug possession or
trafficking (with the exception of importing and exporting), in order to be
acquitted, the accused had to prove that he had a legitimate excuse or that he
had used such substances for therapeutic or scientific purposes. When Parliament
amended the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1920 to provide a better framework
for dealing with importing and exporting, the manufacture, sale and prescription
by physicians of scheduled drugs by means of a permit, the procedure established
in 1911 was amended to specify that, in order to be acquitted, the accused had
to prove that he had had a permit duly issued by the Department of Health.
of the Act of 1921 expanded the application of the reverse onus to include any
person who possessed or occupied a place (dwelling, store, boutique, warehouse,
garden or ship) where drugs had been found. According to the wording of the
section, that person was deemed to possess such a substance if he was unable to
prove that it had been in that place without his consent or that he did not know
that the drug was there.
article also provided that this procedure would apply when a person was charged
with trafficking in raw or prepared opium for smoking purposes without having
first obtained a permit issued by federal authorities. In 1923, the Act
to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and Other Drugs (Act of 1923)
extended application of the reverse onus to offences involving the import or
export of drugs without a permit. In cases involving the prescription or
administration of a scheduled substance for non-therapeutic purposes, a
physician or pharmacist had to prove that that substance had been used solely
for medical purposes.
of 1923 also cancelled another fundamental legal guarantee, the right of appeal.
Section 25 eliminated the right of appeal in summary conviction cases
involving possession, drug trafficking without a permit or for the sale, gift or
distribution of a drug to a minor, the latter being an indictable offence.
Section 26 of the Act of 1929 expanded this procedure to include possession
of or trafficking in a substance similar to a drug. This new procedure rendered
moot the provision enacted in 1911 prohibiting any application for a writ of certiorari,
and the Narcotics Division sought its removal from the act, which was actually
done in 1929.
other important amendments were made to the Opium
and Narcotic Act between 1920 and 1930 to provide for the admissibility of
the certificate of a federal analyst and the application of the Identification
of Criminals Act to summary conviction offences. Section 1 of the Act
of 1921 had amended the legal procedure applicable in drug prosecutions by
making the certificate of a federal analyst admissible in evidence with respect
to one or more drugs seized by police officers. However, the courts were
reluctant to accept the certificate because they could not authenticate the
or confirm his appointment. In 1929, an amendment was made to the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act (section 18) providing that the certificate would
henceforth constitute prima facie evidence
of the status of the person who gave or issued it. In this context, proof of
that person's appointment or authentication of his signature was no longer
the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act was
amended to apply the provisions of the Identification
of Criminals Act to persons convicted of an offence by way of summary
conviction. Section 2 of that act permitted police officers to fingerprint,
photograph and measure the accused solely in cases where they were indicted.
That information constituted the accused's official "criminal record",
which was kept in the national police records, with all the consequences that
entailed for social, professional or family stigmatization. However, from the
standpoint of the Narcotics Division, this amendment would prove beneficial
since it would henceforth make it possible to establish files and more
effectively monitor drug addicts convicted by way of summary conviction.
to Amend the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act (Act of 1920)
established a control system for the legal trade in narcotics through a
system of permits issued to businesses, pharmacists and physicians by the
Department of Health in order to regulate Canada's supply of drugs for medical
or scientific purposes. The Act provided for: a prohibition against importing or
exporting drugs at a port not designated for that purpose by federal
authorities; the issue of permits for the import, export, manufacture, sale and
distribution of drugs; the imposition of criteria regarding packaging and
labelling of packages containing such substances; an obligation for businesses
to keep a record of their drug importing, exporting, manufacturing, sale and
distribution activities duly authorized by federal authorities; an obligation
for physicians to provide the information requested by federal authorities
concerning the purchase, manufacture or prescription of medications containing
drugs; an obligation for pharmacists to keep a record of their purchases and
sales of drugs, the preparation of their own medications containing such
substances and renewals of prescriptions signed by a physician;
and the authorization to sell medications (such as ointments and liniments)
containing very small quantifies of scheduled drugs without a permit, provided
they were not administered to children under two years of age and met certain
Parliament passed the Act to Amend the
Opium and Narcotic Drug Act (Act of 1954),
repealing offences relating to opium use and the possession of equipment
intended for that purpose, the sale of drugs to a minor and drug trafficking
through the mail. It also made two other significant amendments to the act.
the impetus of R.E. Curran, Deputy Minister of Health, it now included a
definition of the offence of drug trafficking in order to make the act more
comprehensible and increased the maximum prison term for that offence from seven
to 14 years. The minimum prison term of six months and the fine were repealed.
Henceforth, this offence could only be prosecuted by way of indictment. However,
a person convicted of the offence was still liable to whipping and deportation.
of the Act of 1954 created the offence of possession for the purpose of
trafficking, for which the new penalties provided for drug trafficking applied.
This new offence would mean that those possessing large quantities of narcotic
drugs would no longer be convicted for simple possession. As we have seen, a
reverse onus was part of Canada's drug legislation from 1911 to 1929. In 1954,
subsection 4(4) added a new criminal procedure to facilitate convictions
for possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
every criminal prosecution for this offence, Crown prosecutors first had to
prove that the accused was illegally in possession of the drug. The defendant
then had to prove that he had not possessed the substance for the purpose of
trafficking. If he succeeded, he was found guilty of possession; otherwise he
was convicted of trafficking. In this specific case, Canadian courts established
a distinction between the so‑called secondary burden, which is to prove a
specific fact (in this case the intention to traffic) and the primary burden
(illegal possession), which consists in proving that fact where all the evidence
is adduced. Thus the Crown prosecutor had the primary burden of establishing
that an offence was indeed
committed. In this particular case, however, the Crown did not have to prove
that the accused intended to engage in trafficking. Proof of illegal possession
was sufficient for the court to conclude that there was an intention to traffic.
amendment was enacted in response to the recommendation by the RCMP and the
Narcotics Office (former Narcotics Division) since, failing an admission by the
accused, it was very difficult to prove the intention to traffic. However, this
new procedure considerably undermined the rights of the accused, particularly
since the act did not specify the quantity of drugs necessary to determine
whether the accused had actually possessed it for the purpose of trafficking.
The accused was thus guilty of trafficking in the absence of evidence to the
February 24, 1955, the Senate passed a motion creating a Special Committee
of the Senate on the Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in Canada following the motion
made a few weeks earlier by Senator Thomas Reid. At that time, Senator Reid
had asked the Senate government leader, W. Ross MacDonald, whether the
federal government intended to create such a committee since, based on his
information, the traffic in opium and other narcotics in the City of Vancouver
was beyond the control of police authorities. In debate on the motion, Senator MacDonald
accurately summed up the task before the members of the Senate Special Committee
The work of the committee
will largely be to consider the causes of this unfortunate problem with which
this country is faced, to hear expert witnesses and to determine in what way the
Government can make its most valuable contribution in resolving this unfortunate
condition. The reports of this committee, based upon an objective, cautious and
factual assessment of the problem, may well become a document of the utmost
importance and have far-reaching consequences in helping to found policy upon
which the successful solution of this problem can rest. 
adoption of the motion, Senator Reid was appointed chairman of the
Committee. From March 25 to June 17, 1955, the committee organized
public hearings in Ottawa and was the first to travel outside the capital,
holding meetings in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In addition to specialists,
public servants and police officers, the senators also met a group of 150 people
suffering from a drug dependency at Oakalla Prison in Vancouver to gain a better
understanding of the reasons leading them to use drugs. The Committee heard 52 witnesses:
13 from law enforcement agencies, 10 from the various federal departments
concerned by the fight against drug trafficking and 12 addiction treatment
specialists. On June 23, 1955, Senator Reid tabled the Committee's
report containing a series of recommendations for the treatment of people
suffering from a drug dependency and the fight against the traffic in narcotic
to the report, the figures provided by the Department of Health revealed that
there were 515 “medical addicts” in Canada, that is to say individuals
who had become dependent on a drug as a result of treatment for a disease, 333 “professional
addicts” (doctors, pharmacists and so on) and 2,364 “criminal
addicts”, for a total of 3,212. Of the persons belonging to the last category,
1,101 were located in Vancouver.
Only 26 of the 2,364 “criminal addicts” were under 20 years of
establish a relationship between crime and drug dependency and to explain the
difficulties in establishing treatment programs, the Committee cited a study
conducted by the RCMP noting that, of 2,009 “criminal addicts”, 341 had
first been convicted of an offence under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1,220 had first been convicted for
other crimes and 478 had already had a criminal record. Thus, 1,668 of the total
2,009 “drug addicts” were criminals, which was sufficient in the
Committee's view to confirm the thesis of the “criminal” or
It was therefore clear that drug addiction was not a disease. In the Committee's
view, most “addicts” came from disadvantaged backgrounds in which crime and
family problems were omnipresent.
evidence of medical authorities was to the effect that drug addiction is not a
disease in itself. It is a symptom or manifestation of character weaknesses or
personality defects in the individual. The addict is usually an emotionally
insecure and unstable person who derives support from narcotic drugs. The
Committee was gravely concerned to learn that relatively few cases could be
authenticated where drug addicts, while out of custody, had been successful in
abstaining from the use of drugs for any lengthy period of time. The
complications and difficulties in the successful treatment of drug addiction,
having regard to the pattern of development of the addict and his almost
invariable criminal tendencies, cannot be too heavily stressed. 
circumstances, the Committee unanimously rejected the idea of creating
government clinics which, on certain conditions, would provide “criminal
addicts” with ambulatory treatment. The Committee moreover emphasized that a
resolution adopted at the time at the tenth annual session of the United Nations
Narcotic Drug Commission, stated that this form of treatment was not advisable. It also rejected the
United Kingdom's model after confirming, with the aid of British specialists,
that doctors should not encourage drug addicts to persist in their addiction if
they could not, even after lengthy treatment involving gradual reduction of the
prescribed doses abstain from drugs. On this point, the report states: “[…]
dangerous (narcotic) drugs in the United Kingdom are subject to a wide degree of
control of the exacting standards demanded by the international agreements to
which the United Kingdom, in common with Canada, is a party.”
that “addicts” were “basically criminals who daily violate the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act”, the Committee argued that municipal and police
authorities, more particularly those of Vancouver, should more effectively
invoke the provisions of the Criminal Code
dealing with theft, vagrancy and prostitution. Citing the testimony of Harry J. Anslinger
before a U.S. Congress committee, the Committee stated that such an initiative
would solve much of the problem caused by drug addiction. Second, it noted that
“the evidence of many witnesses
recommended the compulsory segregation and isolation of all addicts for long
periods of time for the purpose of treatment and possible rehabilitation.”
prevent this “scourge” from spreading in the penitentiaries and to cure
“criminal addicts” convicted of crimes, the Committee suggested that “the
penitentiary authorities might give further consideration to the particular
problems presented by criminal addicts in terms of segregation, treatment
including specialized training and rehabilitation and other measures necessary
in view of the special problems which addiction superimposes.”
In fact, as Minister of Health, Paul Martin had done a year earlier, the
Committee instead emphasized the limits of federal jurisdiction and the efforts
the provinces should devote to the treatment of “drug addicts” who had not
been convicted of a crime. Still advocating the segregation of these
individuals, the Committee indicated that the federal government wanted to make
available to British Columbia the federal William Head quarantine station
on Vancouver Island so that it could transform it into a treatment centre
similar to that in Lexington, Kentucky. It further proposed the creation of a
national health program to provide financial support for provincial drug
Committee also encouraged the creation of groups similar to Alcoholics
Anonymous, but rejected the idea of national education campaigns for the general
public and teenagers on the ground that “such programs should not be used where they would arouse undue curiosity
on the part of impressionable persons or those of tender years”.
The Committee supported the position of the UN Narcotic Drug Commission,
recommending instead that a “mental health” program be established to detect
behaviour in the schools that might lead to drug addiction.
treatment programs could not cure all “drug addicts”, the Committee also
proposed that certain measures be adopted to fight illegal trafficking in
narcotics. It thus recommended:
that a separate
offence be created for the illegal importing/exporting of narcotic drugs in
order to put an end to drug smuggling;
that a maximum
prison term be imposed of up to 25 years (life) for that new offence;
maximum prison term be increased from 14 to 25 years for trafficking
that it be
possible to establish proof of a conspiracy in order to facilitate the
conviction of the leaders of criminal organizations not directly involved in the
sale of narcotics but which benefit therefrom.
Committee’s view, the severity of these penalties would “act as an effective deterrent to an individual in smuggling drugs
into Canada for the profit of a ‘higher up.’”
Rather than waste police and court resources in trying to convict organized
crime leaders who were the cause of the problem, an attempt had to be made to
eliminate the “trafficker-distributors” in the neighbourhoods of the large
cities and the problem would be solved.
the Committee's proposals were much more conservative than those advanced in the
debates preceding its establishment, contrary to a number of other reports by
parliamentary committees or royal commissions of inquiry, most of its
recommendations would be followed by federal authorities. First, it contributed
to a number of research projects in British Columbia and Ontario in 1956. And
second, the Senate Committee’s report was at the origin of most of the new
provisions of the Narcotic Control Act,
which was passed in 1961 to replace the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act.
period following World War II witnessed new attitudes toward narcotic drug
control that would call into question the approach adopted by Canada since 1908
in fighting the abuse of and trafficking in narcotic drugs. The international
human rights movement, the creation of organizations dedicated to the defence of
civil liberties, the gradual democratization of access to universities, the
appearance and development of new disciplines in the social sciences such as
criminology, psychology, sociology, political science and the sociology of law,
scientific progress and research into drug addiction were factors in the
creation of new pressure groups consisting of more articulate individuals who
disputed the use of criminal law as a “miracle” solution in responding to
drug problems. However, it was not until the explosive increase in drug use in
the 1960s, the hippie protest movement and the work of the Le Dain
Commission that these demands materialized.
of the Narcotic Control Act (Act of
coincided with the
coming into force of the Single Convention
on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which played an important role in the creation of
the modern international narcotic drug control system, an extension and
expansion of the international legal infrastructure developed between 1909 and
1953. Work to group together the nine multilateral treaties signed during that
period into a single international enactment began in 1948, and Canada played a
significant role in the negotiations and drafting that led to its adoption.
the Act retains most of the criminal procedures and offences established over
the previous years, two amendments formed the subject of major parliamentary
debate: the creation of an offence for illegal importing or exporting of
narcotics and the increase in penalties for the offence of trafficking, and the
treatment of drug addicts?. The minimum prison term of six months for
simple possession was repealed, as was the procedure that provided that the Identification
of Criminals Act would apply in the case of a summary conviction and the
provision eliminating the right of appeal for certain offences.
of 1961 was divided into two parts: the first, entitled “Offences and
Enforcement”, was placed under the authority of the Minister of Health, and
the second, “Preventive Detention and Detention for Treatment”, was to be
administered by the Minister of Justice.
Senate Committee had recommended, section 5 of the Act of 1961 created the
offence of importing and exporting narcotic drugs. Whoever was convicted of that
offence (solely by way of indictment) was liable to a minimum prison term of
seven years to a maximum of 25 years. That provision was designed to
combat drug smuggling between the United States and Canada and to comply with
the international undertakings Canada had made in ratifying the Single
accordance with another recommendation from the Senate Committee report, section 4
of the Act of 1961 raised the maximum prison term for trafficking in narcotic
drugs from 14 to 25 years. The provision for whipping was also repealed.
These amendments also applied to the penalty provided for possession for the
purposes of trafficking.
of the Act, which comprised sections 15 to 19, defined the new federal
policy regarding preventive detention and detention for treatment. First, the
courts henceforth had the power to order that an individual convicted of
trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking or importing/exporting
drugs, and only if the accused had previously been convicted of similar
offences, be placed in preventive detention for an indeterminate period of time.
This measure replaced any other sentence which might have been imposed. Second,
when a person was charged with simple possession, possession for the purpose of
trafficking, trafficking or import/export, the court, at the request of Crown
counsel or the accused, could order the accused detained for examination
purposes to determine whether he was eligible for a drug addiction treatment
program. If that was the case, the accused had to be sentenced to detention for
treatment at a specialized federal institution for an indeterminate period of
time in lieu of any other sentence provided for under the act. For a first
offence, preventive detention could not exceed 10 years. The individual had
a right of appeal, was subject to the Parole
Act and could be referred to preventive detention at any time if he used
drugs during his probation period.
the Act of 1961 provided that, if a province adopted a preventive detention
policy combined with a drug addiction treatment program (in cases not involving
an offence under the act), the federal government could enter into an agreement
with the competent authorities of that province to transfer drug addicts to the
specialized federal institutions. These new provisions in fact enacted the
Senate Committee's proposals.
the intervention of two ministers, this
treatment policy, based on a penal
approach and, to a certain degree, oriented toward repression of the
“contaminating user” or “criminal user”, failed to stir up interest
among parliamentarians. The measures were passed without opposition but, for
reasons that remain unclear, were never proclaimed. The Le Dain Commission moreover questioned this decision by the
federal government: “Whether this is
because of doubts about the constitutional validity of these provisions or the
failure to develop suitable treatment methods and facilities or later
reservations by the government as to the advisability of compulsory treatment in
principle, or some combination of these, it’s not clear.”
provision of the Act of 1961, but not the least, was passed by Parliament
without debate: the schedule. The Single Convention of 1961 contained a series
of schedules prepared by the World Health Organization containing the list of
drugs subject to rigorous control for the purpose of preventing them from being
used for other than medical or scientific purposes. Most were on the schedule to
the Act of 1961, which now comprised more than 92 drugs and their
derivatives, spread over 14 major classes (opium, cannabis, coca,
phenypipedridine, and so on). No member of Parliament questioned the Minister of
Health to determine the criteria or reasons advanced by his department for
subjecting such a large number of substances to the restrictive provisions of
Act respecting Food and Drugs and
early 1960s, the use of drugs not included in the schedule to the Opium
and Narcotic Drug Act, or, later, in the Narcotic
Control Act, began to concern medical and government authorities. These
drugs were barbituric acids or “goof balls”, amphetamines, methamphetamines
and the salts and derivatives of those three substances. These so‑called
psychotropic drugs could be used to reduce stress, eliminate insomnia, stimulate
muscle and brain activity and eliminate appetite.
physicians and other health professionals began to notice the number of
barbiturate dependence cases and the serious secondary effects of those drugs in
the 1950s, they asked the government to regulate their distribution and use more
effectively. In addition, in 1957, following a Health Department survey of 2,500 pharmacies,
more than 300 pharmacists were convicted for failing to comply with
regulations respecting the prescription of barbiturates and amphetamines. This
time, it should be pointed out, the position of health professionals had more
influence on government authorities than the positions of police officers or the
Narcotic Control Office. These substances were included in the Food
and Drugs Act as “controlled drugs” and not in the Narcotic
Control Act, for two reasons. First, certain harsh provisions of the
Act of 1961 were coming under increasing criticism. Second, the use of those
substances in a number of prescription medications meant that their use was
widespread among the general public, particularly among persons holding good
jobs, which ultimately was quite different from the unflattering picture
hitherto painted of “drug addicts”. In the circumstances, having recourse to
the provisions of the Act of 1961 was out of the question.
Parliament thus passed the Act to Amend
the Food and Drugs Act (Food and Drugs Act of 1961)
to better regulate the trade in barbiturates and amphetamines. The new act
created Part III concerning the “controlled drugs” listed in Schedule G.
It also created the offence of trafficking or possession for the purpose of
trafficking, for which an accused was liable to a maximum prison term of 10 years,
if convicted by way of indictment, or 18 months by summary conviction.
However, simple possession of the substances was not illegal. Furthermore,
unlike the Narcotic Control Act, the
definition of trafficking excluded the distribution or giving of a controlled
drug, but included the offences of importing and exporting.
case of criminal procedures applicable in a trial, a number of aspects were
retained from the Act of 1961, such as the procedure concerning the reverse onus
in a prosecution for possession for the purpose of trafficking, the use of a
certificate from a federal analyst to confirm the nature of the drug, search and
seizure writs of assistance, and the forfeiture and restitution of seized
Schedule G of the Act included three drugs: amphetamines, barbituric
acids and methamphetamines, as well as the salts and derivatives of those drugs.
During the debates, one member asked why other similar substances were not
included in the schedule. The Minister of Health answered that, based on
scientific research, only those three drugs were considered dangerous to
human health. Furthermore, as had been
the case with the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act
and the new Narcotic Control Act, the
Governor in Council could make regulations upon recommendation by the Minister
of Health, and where the public interest warranted it, to amend the schedule.
Food and Drugs Act and hallucinogenics (1969)
Parliament extended the application of legislative and bureaucratic controls to
hallucinogenic drugs by passing the Act to
Amend the Food and Drugs Act (Food and Drugs Act of 1969).
That enactment created Part IV, which was to govern the use of and trade in
“restricted drugs” enumerated in the new Schedule J. Those drugs were
lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N-Diethyltryptamine (DET) and
better control the use of and trade in hallucinogenic drugs, the act provided
for the same offences and procedures as those applying to barbiturates. It also
created an offence of possession in order to deter anyone from using such drugs.
In that instance, an accused was liable, on summary conviction, to a maximum
prison term of three years and a fine of $5,000.
If found guilty of a first offence, on summary conviction, an accused was liable
to a prison term of up to six months or a maximum fine of $1,000. For
subsequent convictions, the act provided for a maximum prison term of one year
or a fine of $2,000.
Narcotic Control Act and the offence of possession of cannabis
parliamentary debates on the Food and Drugs Act of 1969, the Minister of Health
moved a very important amendment to the Narcotic
Control Act. From 1921 until the Narcotic
Control Act was passed, Canadian legislation had provided for a hybrid
offence in the case of simple possession of a drug. Since 1961, however, that
offence was solely an indictable offence punishable by a prison term of up to
seven years. The amendment proposed in 1969 maintained the offence, but again
offered the option of proceeding by way of summary conviction, thus recreating a
hybrid offence. In the case of a first offence in which an accused was found
guilty on summary conviction, the Act provided for a maximum prison term of six months
or a fine of up to $1,000, and a term of up to one year and a fine of
$2,000 for subsequent offences. The amendment was considered necessary by the
Minister of Health since the number of prosecutions for cannabis possession had
increased from 493 in 1966 to 1,727 in 1969.
In his view
in spite of the enormous variety of individual situations involved in that
number of cases, the relevant section of that act provides very little scope for
flexibility, either on the part of the Crown prosecutors or presiding judges or
magistrates. There is no provision for the Crown to choose to proceed summarily.
[…] This rigidity has been the subject of increasing criticism from a wide
variety of sources such as the addiction research agencies of several provinces.
the Food and Drugs Act of 1969 amended the procedure adopted in 1929 providing
for the admissibility of a certificate from a federal analyst at trial for an
offence involving a scheduled drug under the Narcotic Control Act or a Schedule G or J drug under the Food
and Drugs Act. Crown prosecutors would henceforth be permitted to prove
orally, under oath, by affidavit or solemn declaration, the status of the
signatory of the certificate, who thus no longer had to appear in court.
However, a judge could require the analyst to appear before him for examination
or cross-examination to better assess the information contained in the affidavit
or solemn declaration. The amendment was designed to ensure greater respect for
the fundamental rights of the accused.
parliamentarians were examining the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act in
1969, they asked that a special committee be struck to look into the issue of
drug use in Canada, particularly the use of cannabis. On May 29, 1969, the
Liberal government headed by Pierre Elliott Trudeau passed Order-in-Council P.C.
1969-1112, establishing the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of
Drugs, more commonly known as the Le Dain Commission. One of the reasons put
forward to justify its creation was:
notwithstanding these measures and the competent enforcement thereof by the
R.C.M. Police and other enforcement bodies, the incidence of possession and use
of these substances for non-medical purposes has increased and the need for an
investigation as to the cause of such increasing use has become imperative.
Commission carried out its activities from mid-October 1969 until December 14,
1973, when its final report was tabled. During this period, it heard from 639
groups and individuals: 295 organizations presented briefs and 43 appeared
before the members of the Commission; 212 individuals made submissions and 89
gave oral presentations. In total, the Commission held public hearings in 27
cities, including Ottawa and the ten provincial capitals, travelling some 50,000
miles around the country. During its term, the Commission published four
reports: an interim report (1970), a special report on cannabis (1972), a report
on treatment (1972) and a final report (1973). In addition to its Chairman,
Gerald Le Dain, the Commission comprised four members: Ian L Campbell,
Heinz Lehman, Peter Stein and Marie-Andrée Bertrand.
reviewing the Commission’s recommendations in relation to cannabis, it is
worthwhile to look into four aspects of the Commission’s work that Dr.
Marie-Andrée Bertrand brought up at a hearing of our Committee.
first relates to the Commission’s mandate, which was “extremely generous and
broad.” She presented it thus:
to marshal from available sources, both in Canada and abroad, data and
information comprising the present fund of knowledge concerning the non-medical
use of sedative, stimulant, tranquillizing, hallucinogenic and other psycho
tropic drugs and substances;
report on the current state of medical knowledge respecting the effect of the
inquire into and report on the motivation underlying the non-medical use
referred to in (a);
inquire into and report on the social, economic, educational and philosophical
factors relating to the use for non-medical purposes... in particular, on the
extent of the phenomenon, the social factors that have led to it, the age groups
involved, and problems of communications; and
inquire into and recommend with respect to the ways or means by which the
Federal Government can act, alone or in its relation with Government at other
levels, in the reduction of the dimensions of the problems involved in such use.
the mandate was so broad, commissioners and the Commission's personnel got
involved in a vast project which, in my opinion, had a great deal of impact on
Canadian society. I am convinced that even though it had no influence at all on
criminal legislation, the Le Dain Commission brought about a considerable
change in the mentalities of Canadians, as it raised, for instance, awareness
about the effects of traditional drugs.
the method used by the Commission to seek the opinions of Canadians. After
mentioning the Commission’s travel, she recalled that the public hearings gave
the public an opportunity to ask questions and to confront the experts.
we raised a wide national debate on the factors whereby Canadian society …
can, frequently resort to psychotropic substances to alleviate some of its
suffering. In my opinion, the generosity of the mandate, the method of
consultation, the style and attitude of the commissioners - and more
specifically those of the Commission's chairman - brought about an effervescence
of ideas about democracy, about how the State functions, and about the feeling
of alienation that many Canadians felt and still feel vis-à-vis their national,
provincial or municipal government.
the Commission’s research mandate. Dr. Bertrand stated that the Le Dain
Commission, at the height of its mandate, employed 100 persons, 30 of whom were
full-time researchers. These researchers basically worked on four targets: (1)
the effects of the drugs – and especially of cannabis, (2) drug use, (3)
treatment problems, and (4) the influence of the media on the phenomenon.
the Commission’s impact. Dr. Bertrand believes that the democratic debate
kicked off by the Commission had significant impact on knowledge about drugs.
Many people came to understand that stereotypes of drug users as criminals were
just that–stereotypes. The Commission also kicked off a deep debate about the
factors pushing people to take drugs and increased awareness of these issues.
What became apparent very quickly after the Commission started its work was
Canadians’ feeling of alienation from Canadian politicians and lawmakers, and
the frustration that ordinary people are not listened to in this country.
The special report on
presenting their recommendations in connection with a new public policy on
cannabis, the Commissioners made a number of observations about Canadian
The decision to
criminalize cannabis was made “without
any apparent scientific basis nor even any real sense of social urgency
The reversal of
the evidentiary burden of proof for an offence of possession for the purpose of
trafficking places a very heavy burden on the accused – significantly
weakening the principle of the presumption of innocence – since he must prove
that he did not intend to traffic by a preponderance of evidence, not just by
raising a reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge or jury.
is made very difficult by the very nature of the offences that take place
secretly and often on a consensual basis, and extraordinary methods of law
enforcement must be used. However, “the
combined effect of their use in connection with [drug] laws has been one of the
chief causes of concern about the impact of the criminal law in this field.”
and officers in the provincial or municipal police services do not have the
necessary financial, human or technical resources to curb narcotics trafficking
as well as dealing with simple possession offences. All too often, possession
cases are discovered accidentally in the course of other police investigations
or surveillance activities over several months, resulting in a discriminatory
application of the law.
The decision as
to whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction varies considerably
from one area to another of the country, and is influenced by the number of
ongoing cases involving narcotics and the significant discretion exerted by
crown attorneys. This inequitable application of the law can have extremely
serious consequences on a defendant’s future, particularly if a criminal
record is the outcome.
practices in drug cases are characterized by a wide disparity across Canada
because of individual judges’ perceptions about drug addiction, and their
relative experience in criminal law and with cases involving simple possession
or drug trafficking. According to the Commission’s research, judges with
greater experience in these types of cases handed down more lenient sentences.
For example, sentences for simple possession involved fines or probation when a
defendant did not have a criminal record, and, in trafficking cases,
imprisonment of less than two years;
From 1968 to
1971, the proportion of fines imposed for simple possession of cannabis
increased from 1 % of all dispositions to more than 77 %.
the Commissioners agreed with these observations, their conclusions and
recommendations were not unanimous.
The majority opinion –
the recommendations of Gerald Le Dain, Heinz Lehman and Peter Stein
to explain the underlying reasons for their recommendations, the majority based
their conclusions on the concept of harm, considering this the most useful
criterion for laying down a new social policy for cannabis. This principle is
associated both with the harm caused to an individual who uses a harmful
substance, particularly his physical or mental health, and with the harm the
individual causes to society, i.e. the impact on his family and colleagues. The
concept of harm was of significance to the majority, since it made it possible
to assess whether society should be concerned about the adverse effects of
cannabis on human health and on society and, if such were the case, to what
extent should criminal law apply in order to reduce those adverse effects.
Should one criminalize simple possession of cannabis or only trafficking? Should
measures such as decriminalisation or legalization be considered?
the majority wanted to eliminate some of the myths about the danger of cannabis:
evidence of the potential for harm of cannabis is far from complete and far from
conclusive. It is possible to find some fault with the methodology or the chain
of reasoning in virtually all of the evidence. […] On the whole, the physical
and mental effects of cannabis, at the levels of use presently attained in North
America, would appear to be much less serious than those which may result from
excessive use of alcohol. However, there has not been sufficient experience with
long-term, excessive use of cannabis under North American conditions to justify
firm and final conclusions. 
the amotivational syndrome, the Commission said it did not have conclusive data
about personality change.
observers have spoken of apathy and a loss of goals, an absorption in the
present with little or no thought for the future. All of these symptoms might be
equally associated with a profound change of values and outlook which many might
regard as salutary.
In our opinion, these concerns justify a social policy designed to discourage
the use of cannabis as much as possible, particularly among adolescents. 
Commission did not have specific and conclusive scientific data to identify the
harmful or beneficial effects of cannabis. On the other hand, while it believed
that the dangers of cannabis (particularly those involving operation of a motor
vehicle, poly‑drug use, long-term mental deterioration and disorder, and
criminality) were exaggerated, the Commission recognized that cannabis, like all
other drugs, can have particularly harmful effects when it is used along with
other drugs and that its use by adolescents could have a harmful effect on their
maturation. The majority of members explained that, even if the use of cannabis
is not a threat to the foundations of Canadian society or to our system of
values based, for example, on a productive life, this element could not be
excluded from the formulation of a new policy on cannabis.
since, in addition to health problems, cannabis use entails significant costs to
the family, to society and to the economy, the majority justified the use of the
criminal law, stating:
our opinion, the state has a responsibility to restrict the availability of
harmful substances-and in particular to prevent the exposure of the young to
them-and that such restriction is a proper object of the criminal law […]
where, in its opinion, the potential for harm appears to call for such a
reason, the majority rejected a public policy model based on legalization of the
use and distribution. Even if legalization would have had the benefit of better
controlling supply and quality, without a considerable increase in the number of
long-term users, it could have led to some users moving on to hashish, with its
higher concentration of THC, or encouraged users to smoke more marijuana or
other cannabis products in order to obtain the desired psychoactive effect, and
this would have cancelled out the effectiveness of control measures and
increased the likelihood of abuse. 
the majority recommended maintaining the offences of cannabis trafficking, of
possession of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking, and importing and
exporting cannabis. However, it adopted a much more liberal position with regard
to controlling the demand:
criminal law should not be used for the enforcement of morality without regard
to potential for harm. […] If we admit the right of society to use the
criminal law to restrict the availability of harmful substances in order to
protect individuals (particularly young people) and society from resultant harm,
it does not necessarily follow that the criminal law should be applied against
the user as well as the distributor of such substances. 
context, the majority felt it was necessary to amend the Narcotic Control Act,
because “we do not believe that a change in the law need have an adverse
effect on a proper appreciation of the caution with which we believe cannabis
should be treated.”
It was necessary to restore Canadians’ confidence in and respect for the
cannabis policy by reclassifying the drugs listed in the appendix to the Act,
particularly cannabis. The majority opinion was based on the fact that:
the Single Convention groups cannabis with the opiate narcotics it does not
insist that it be given identical treatment in the law of the member states. The
Single Convention has certainly been responsible for reinforcing the erroneous
impression that cannabis is to be assimilated to the opiate narcotics but it
does not prevent domestic legislation from correcting this impression. Because
the present classification and legislative treatment of cannabis is so generally
recognized to be erroneous and indefensible, any change in it which corresponded
more closely to the facts could be expected to command much more respect and
careful attention [to the law]. 
Canadians’ confidence in the Narcotic
Control Act also involved a comprehensive review of criminal penalties
relating to cannabis. To justify this view, the majority pointed out that the
harm caused by the criminal law, particularly on mere users, was more serious
than the harm to their health and their environment caused by using the drug. In
its analysis, the majority focussed on the consequences of sentences on young
people, since over 85% of those convicted for cannabis possession or trafficking
in 1970 and 1971 were under the age of 25.
criminal record could have serious consequences for the future of young people,
limiting the right to travel, and because of the family, social or professional
stigma it caused. The majority were of the view that the possibility of
obtaining a pardon is not sufficient to resolve this situation, since: “the knowledge which a lot of people invariably possess of a
conviction and the knowledge which can be obtained by interested parties through
careful investigation cannot be eliminated.” 
In fact, the Criminal
Records Act provides only for removing information about the criminal record
stored in national police files following a pardon, but not information in
police investigation reports, or in legal documents stored in the law courts
about the trial and the sentence, let alone newspaper articles.
the majority of members deplored the extreme severity of sentences for cannabis
use, stating, “they are out of all
proportion to the harm which could possibly be caused by cannabis. Moreover,
they are excessive by comparison with those of most other nations.”
It disapproved of the maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment for cannabis
cultivation for one's own use, the mandatory minimum penalty of seven years'
imprisonment for cannabis importing or exporting, as well as the possibility of
life imprisonment for cannabis trafficking. The majority’s criticism also
covered the definition of trafficking, which included giving or offering, so
that people who are merely passing a joint among friends in an evening could be
charged with trafficking. The majority also mentioned that these sentences were
made even more severe because:
in the cases
relating to possession of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking, the Crown
could only proceed by way of indictment, with the consequence of more severe
of the Narcotic Control Act was discriminatory (police investigations, the Crown
Attorneys’ discretion in deciding how to proceed, reversal of the burden of
proof to the detriment of the accused, and judges’ past experience).
criminalization of cannabis had another negative effect: the illegal nature of
simple possession and cultivation was conducive to the development of an illicit
market, where some people must engage in crime or at least deal with criminals
in order to obtain a supply. In some cases, people were exposed to other, more
dangerous drugs. According to the majority:
cannabis legally available would not isolate people from contact with the
illicit market in other drugs. From the point of view of influence, the
important contacts are between drug users rather than between users and
traffickers. Most users are initiated into new forms of drugs by other users.
Interest in other drugs would not cease if cannabis were made legally available.
the use of extraordinary police powers, such as writs of assistance, often
against users, only discredited the law further and adversely affected the
morale of law enforcement authorities.
these reasons, the majority recommended:
and exporting should be included in the definition of trafficking (as they are
under the Food and Drugs Act), and they should not be subject to a mandatory
minimum term of imprisonment;
that it be
possible to proceed by indictment or summary conviction in the case of
trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking, and, on indictment,
the penalty for this offence should be five years, and on summary conviction,
eighteen months. It should be possible in either case to impose fine in lieu of
prohibition against the simple possession of cannabis be repealed;
trafficking should not include the giving, without exchange of value, of a
quantity of cannabis which could reasonably be consumed on a single occasion;
prohibition against cultivating cannabis for personal use be repealed; and
that the burden
of proof on a person charged with possession for the purposes of trafficking be
lightened, by stipulating in the Act that it is sufficient for the accused to
raise a reasonable doubt as to his intention to traffic.
recommendations of Marie-Andrée Bertrand
to Marie-Andrée Bertrand, Canada’s cannabis policy required an in-depth
reform that went far beyond merely amending the Narcotic
Control Act. Dr. Bertrand took a much more liberal approach than the
majority, and particularly Ian L. Campbell, as we will see below. Dr. Bertrand
wrote that the Commission’s research findings “establish that a large number of people have used cannabis-more than a
million in Canada. Very few of them have ever required medical or psychological
treatment as a consequence. Smoking marijuana or hashish generally produces no
serious personal problems, nor does it result in criminality.”
Cases of habitual and excessive use were exceptional, as most users used
cannabis recreationally. Any new public policy aiming at controlling cannabis
use effectively without causing harm both to users and to society should
consider these determinants. The use of the criminal law was out of the
question. According to the Commissioner, there were several arguments in support
of this conclusion.
majority, she rejected a number of prejudices concerning harm caused by cannabis
to human health, in particular its effects on brain activity and the ability to
drive a vehicle, but recognized nevertheless that in large amounts cannabis
could cause psychoses. While Marie-Andrée Bertrand commented that cannabis
might have an effect on adolescent maturation, she said that very few facts
supported the hypothesis put forward by the majority.
She also concluded that there was no relationship between cannabis use and
criminality, aggression or the infamous amotivational syndrome.
Moreover, she rejected
claims that cannabis use leads to poly-drug use in most users:
a certain proportion of cannabis users take other drugs […]. We are not
dealing with a phenomenon that is limited to cannabis, LSD and the amphetamines
(which are used in combination by only a few), but with an almost indiscriminate
use of mood-changing substances in our society. When we include alcohol, it can
be said that Canadians consume great quantities of a variety of psychoactive
drugs, even if cannabis is excluded.
users could not be sure of the quality of cannabis they bought, with all the
concomitant repercussions, given the illicit and clandestine nature of
production and distribution activities. Dr. Bertrand responded to the argument
made by the majority that quality control of cannabis in a legal market would
encourage a number of users to move to hashish by saying that no evidence points
to such a possibility.
the prohibition of cannabis trade and illicit use was expensive and ineffective.
Attempts to curb trafficking, despite all the efforts made by RCMP officers and
municipal police forces, along with severe penal sanctions, were ineffective.
The sentences provided for simple possession no longer had any dissuasive
effect, since a million Canadians were using or had used cannabis.
in its current form, the law had no educational or dissuasive impact, since
Canadians’ perception of the harm caused by cannabis was no longer the same as
the government’s. In this connection, Marie-Andrée Bertrand wrote:
more important factor underlying problems in the application of the law is the
gradual change in opinion taking place among Canadians regarding the harmfulness
of this substance. The evidence has been taken into account - cannabis is not an
opiate, its use does not induce physical dependence. The earlier opinions of
society have been challenged and modified. […] However, the continued
prohibition of cannabis has precipitated, among many users, a generalized
disrespect for the law. 
these reasons, Marie-Andrée Bertrand recommended a “controlled
legalization” policy for cannabis. She
concluded that the federal government should remove cannabis from the Narcotic Control Act and initiate discussions with the provinces to
have the sale and use of cannabis placed under controls similar to those
governing the sale and use of alcohol. Such a system would entail regulations
prohibiting the sale or distribution of cannabis to minors, and governing the
distribution of a quality product at a price that would make smuggling
impractical. To guarantee the success of the new approach, the federal and
provincial governments were to work together in developing all stages of the
production and distribution of cannabis, while undertaking multidisciplinary
epidemiological research to evaluate the repercussions of a controlled
legalization policy on health and human behaviour and to monitor patterns of
Marie-Andrée Bertrand considered that this policy would prove beneficial, not
only for users, but also for the federal and provincial governments because of
the considerable revenue they might well derive from the sales taxes on such a
recommendations of Ian Campbell
comparison with the very liberal recommendations made by Marie-Andrée Bertrand,
the recommendations by Ian Campbell were much more conservative in tone.
Although he was in almost full agreement with the conclusions of the majority,
he firmly believed that decriminalizing simple possession of cannabis would be
misinterpreted by the media and by Canadians. If cannabis were legalized, the
signal that would be sent out to society, particularly to young people, would be
that cannabis is harmless, and might eventually lead to the accepted use of
other, much more dangerous drugs. In this regard, he stated that, in both cases:
think there is also a risk that the repeal of the prohibition on the possession
of cannabis, even by the young, would be misunderstood as indicating a
willingness by the society to condone and accept the use of the drug. There is
little evidence to suggest that such a willingness exists. […] The risk of
such progression is probably not as great among those who have been deterred
from use by the present law as among those who have already used cannabis. But
the risk of progression is nonetheless real for some considerable number.
felt that maintaining the prohibition had a positive benefit–that of
protecting young people from the harm caused by cannabis:
potential for harm from adult use of cannabis is probably very much less than
from use by the young. But, I find sufficient reasons to recommend the
continuation of the general prohibition. Not the least of these reasons is the
practical impossibility, at this time, of using the law to convey a perception
of the dangers of cannabis without maintaining the prohibition for all, whether
young or old. 
this backdrop, the law was in the interest of prevention and morality,
protecting as it did both individuals and society. Continuing in this vein, Mr.
Campbell spoke about cannabis and young people’s lack of maturity, saying:
have properly been concerned about the damage done by placing too many duties
and responsibilities on the individual too early. But it seems to me that
recently we have been far too little concerned with the consequences of placing
too many rights and freedoms on the shoulders of the young. 
it all, like other members of the Commission, Mr. Campbell recognized that some
penal sanctions provided by the law could cause harm that was disproportionate
in comparison with the real harm caused by cannabis on human health and society.
He therefore recommended that the prohibition on the possession of cannabis be
maintained, with possession of cannabis being punishable, upon summary
conviction, by a fine of $25.00 for the first offence and a fine of $100.00 for
any subsequent offence. Maintaining the prohibition would benefit not only
users, but also police officers, since it:
entirely reasonable to assume that a high proportion of those currently arrested
for possession as a result of systematic police investigation are in fact guilty
of trafficking. 
of the Le Dain Commission ended on December 14, 1973 when its final report was
tabled. On July 31, 1972, John Munro, Minister of Health, revealed the policy
that the federal government wanted to pursue following the tabling of the
Commission’s special report on cannabis. Even though he refused to legalize
the use of cannabis, the Minister stated his intention to remove cannabis from
the Narcotics Control Act and place it
under the Food and Drugs Act. This
measure would be accompanied by lighter sentences for certain cannabis-related
offences, research and education programs about its non-medical use, and less
severe legal consequences for users. This measure would have covered hashish
since the government “wanted to make a
clear distinction between this drug [cannabis] and dangerous narcotics like
Two years later,
on November 26, 1974, the federal government met its commitments by tabling Bill
S-19 in the Senate.
created Part V of the Food and Drugs
Act entitled “Cannabis”. Thus, as recommended in the majority opinion
expressed in the Le Dain Commission’s special report, cannabis and
cannabis users were no longer subject to the harsh provisions of the Narcotic Control Act.
of Bill S‑19 defined “cannabis” as hashish, marijuana, cannabidol
and THC. It continued the offence of possession, which, however, could only be
prosecuted summarily. Anyone convicted of a first offence would be liable to a
maximum fine of $5000 or, failing payment, to a maximum prison term of six months.
For repeat offences, the fine would be fixed at an amount not exceeding $1,000
or, failing payment, a prison term not exceeding six months could be imposed. As
may be seen, fines were favoured over imprisonment for simple possession.
also maintained the offences of trafficking, possession for the purposes of
trafficking and cultivation of cannabis without a permit provided for by the Narcotic
Control Act, punishable on summary conviction by a maximum fine of $1,000 or
a prison term of up to 18 months or, if prosecuted by way of indictment, by
a prison term of up to 10 years. The penalties provided were thus less
severe than those provided for by the Act of 1961, except for the cultivation of
cannabis. Although Bill S‑19 created a dual-procedure offence for
this crime, the maximum prison term was more severe (10 years rather than
seven if prosecuted by way of indictment).
a person convicted of importing or exporting cannabis was liable, on summary
conviction, to a maximum prison term of two years or, if prosecuted by way
of indictment, to a prison term of three to 14 years. Parliament thus
wanted to show that cannabis trafficking and smuggling were crimes which it
still considered very serious.
from these offences, Bill S‑19 also contained the criminal procedures
included in Parts III and IV of the Food
and Drugs Act (evidence of possession for the purpose of trafficking,
certificate of the analyst, police powers and so on). Lastly, the provisions
respecting regulations that the governor in council may make concerning the
issuing of cultivation permits and possession of cannabis were now contained in
the new Part V.
was considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs, which, in its report, recommended three amendments. The first
added a provision for an exception to the Criminal
Records Act so that any person receiving an absolute or conditional
discharge would be automatically pardoned. The purpose of this measure was to
eliminate the possibility that a criminal record might remain with the Canadian
Police Information Centre (CPIC) following discharge. The second amendment
increased the maximum prison term for trafficking in a narcotic from 10 to 14 years
less a day. The third repealed the minimum term of three years for smuggling.
was passed on third reading on June 15, 1975 and referred to the House of
Commons, where it never passed second reading. In the fall of 1976, Mitchell Sharp
stated in an interview that the bill would not be reintroduced since more
important legislation was under consideration.
Le Dain: forging
the 1970s, a number of federal politicians promised major reforms to lessen,
even eliminate, the criminal penalties imposed on cannabis users. In 1972, the
Liberal Party of Canada stated in its election platform that it intended to
amend Canada's policy on marijuana,
which likely gave birth to Bill S‑19. In 1978, Joe Clark, Leader
of the Progressive Conservative Party, declared that a government formed by his
political party would decriminalize possession of that drug.
However, promises of reform ceased in the early 1980s.
mid-1980s, Canadians witnessed a significant change in the federal government's
position on drugs. This new situation was perhaps not unrelated to the U.S.
policy of "war on drugs" adopted in the early 1980s by President
Ronald Reagan. The United States once again became very active within
international drug control agencies to encourage the international community to
take energetic measures to put an end to drug trafficking, which
"threatened American youth".
Canada became actively involved in the work of the International Conference on
Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Two important events occurred at that meeting organized under the aegis of the
United Nations. First, delegates passed a full multidisciplinary plan for future
activities to combat drug abuse encouraging the states to comply with their
obligations under existing treaties. That initiative targeted four important
areas: prevention and reduction of demand for illicit drugs, control of supply,
suppression of illicit trafficking and treatment and rehabilitation. For the
first time, international legal instruments made express provision for the
reduction of supply. Second, delegates put the final touches on the treaty to
suppress drug trafficking on a global scale. That treaty was passed in Vienna on
December 20, 1988 as the Convention
on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Convention
addition to taking part in the work leading to the adoption of that convention,
starting in the mid‑1980s, Canada stepped up its international efforts
with regard to drugs. In June 1987, it ratified the Convention on Psychotropic
Substances of 1971
and promised to increase its financial participation in the United Nations Fund
for Drug Abuse Control to $1 million by 1991. The Canadian government
justified its participation in the international drug effort as follows:
Government is acting to stem the flow of drugs in and out of Canada, not only
because Canadians are among the victims of drug abuse, but also because we have
a role to play as responsible citizens of the world.” 
was influenced by this international effort when, on September 13, 1988,
before it had even signed or ratified the Convention of 1988 – which was not
done until 1990 – Parliament passed Bill C‑61, designed to combat
laundering of the proceeds of crime (money laundering, enterprise crime, etc.).
The Bill was aimed at organized crime and the financing of its operations
through drug trafficking. The Criminal
Code and the Narcotic Control Act
were thus amended to create two new offences: laundering of proceeds of crime
and possession of property obtained through drug trafficking. These new
provisions also applied to the illegal activities of drug cultivation,
trafficking and importing and exporting in or outside Canada if they were
committed by Canadian citizens. Parliament did not need to legislate to
criminalize the other activities prohibited by the Convention of 1988 since, as
noted above, many had already been covered since 1961.
accordance with the commitment the federal government made in 1987, Minister of
Health Perrin Beatty tabled Bill C‑85, An Act respecting psychotropic substances, on June 11, 1992. It
merged Parts III and IV of the Food
and Drugs Act as well as the Narcotic
Control Act into a single piece of legislation. Bill C‑85 never
passed report stage and died on the Order Paper in September 1993, when the 34th Parliament
February 2, 1994, the new Minister of Health, Diane Marleau, retabled
the legislation proposed by the former government under a different name, the Controlled
Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which was passed by the House of Commons on
October 30, 1995. After the first session of the 35th Parliament was
prorogued, the bill was reintroduced in the Senate on March 6, 1996, and
renumbered Bill C‑8. The legislation went into effect on June 20,
the first major reform of Canada's drug legislation since the 1960s. Apart from
the amendments made in 1988 under Bill C‑61, the Narcotic Control Act had been amended in 1985 to abolish the writ of
assistance and the procedure for establishing proof of possession of narcotics
for the purpose of trafficking. In 1987, in R. v. Smith, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minimum
prison term of seven years for importing or exporting was unconstitutional
under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (cruel or unusual
punishment), as a result of which it was repealed.
the objects of the bill was to meet Canada's international obligations under the
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
(1961), the Convention on Psychotropic
Substances (1971), and the United
Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances (Vienna Convention, 1988). It was further designed to introduce a
legislative framework for regulating the import, production, export,
distribution and use of scheduled substances under previous acts. The following
sections describe the main provisions of this legislation.
merger of the schedule of the Narcotic
Control Act with those of the Food and
Drugs Acts of 1961 and 1969, combined with the addition of new substances
such as benzodiazepines and the precursors of this long list of substances,
considerably increased the number of drugs subject to the restrictive provisions
and procedures of the CDSA.
expression "controlled substance" means a substance included in
Schedule I, II, III, IV or V. In
addition, the Act defines the term "analogue" as any substance that,
in relation to a controlled substance, has a substantially similar chemical
structure. Furthermore, anything that contains or has on it a controlled
substance and that is used or intended or designed for use in producing or
introducing the substance into the human body will be treated in the same way as
that illegal substance.
v Schedule I: narcotic drugs such as opium, morphine and cocaine.
v Schedule II: cannabis, hashish, cannabinol, etc.
v Schedule III: stimulants such as amphetamines, hallucinogenics, such as mescaline, LSD and DET, and sedatives such as methaqualone, commonly called quaalude.
v Schedule IV: among others, anabolic steroids, hypnotics such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines (better known by their trademarks Seconal, Luminal, Valium and Librium).
v Schedule V: enumerates other substances that may be abused.
v Schedule VI: precursors, which produce no effects on the mind but can be converted or used to produce designer drugs, "simili-drugs" or substances contained in the schedules under Canada's international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Vienna Convention of 1988.
v Schedules VII and VIII: concerning application of penalties for cannabis
of more than 150 drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors now appear
in the schedules of the act. It should be noted that section 60 of the CDSA
continues the provision adopted in 1911 that the Governor in Council may, by
order, amend any one of the schedules of the act by adding or deleting one or
more substances where the Governor in Council deems the amendment to be
necessary in the public interest.
Part I: Offences and
in the aforementioned activities would not necessarily result in criminal
penalties. As will be seen below, the act provides for regulations authorizing
the possession, import and export and production for medical, scientific,
industrial purposes or for the purposes of the act. Part I of the CDSA
enumerates a number of types of offences:
Possession of a Schedule I, II or III substance (subsection 4(1));
obtaining or seeking to obtain a Schedule I, II, III or IV substance, or
the order necessary to obtain it from a practitioner (subsection 4(2)). The
following table shows the maximum penalties for the offence of
Possession of a Schedule I Substance
Seven years' imprisonment
Fine of $1,000 or 6 months' imprisonment or
Fine of $2,000 or one year's imprisonment or
Possession of a Schedule II Substance
(cannabis in all its forms):
imprisonment less a day
Fine of $1,000 or 6
months' imprisonment or both
Fine of $2,000 or one year's imprisonment or both
of a Schedule VIII Offence
than 1 g of cannabis resin (hashish) or less than 30 g of
Fine of $1,000 or 6 months' imprisonment or both
of a Schedule III Substance
Fine of $1,000 or 6
months' imprisonment or both
Fine of $2,000 or
one year's imprisonment or both
penalties imposed for the offence under subsection 4(2) are similar but
slightly different from those provided for possession.
Trafficking in a Schedule I, II, III or IV substance or any substance
represented to be such a substance. Trafficking is defined as any transaction to
sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver a schedule
substance, or to offer to do any one of those things. To “sell” means
offering for sale, exposing for sale, having in one's possession for sale and
distributing a substance, whether or not the distribution is made for
consideration (subsection 5(1)); possessing any Schedule I, II, III or
IV substance for the purpose of trafficking (subsection 5(2)). The
following table shows the maximum penalties for these offences:
Trafficking in a Schedule I
or Schedule II Substance
(except in cases involving
less than 3 kg of cannabis)
No summary conviction offence
Trafficking in a Schedule III Substance
in a Schedule IV Substance
Fine of $1,000 or 6
months' imprisonment or both
in cannabis is not always punishable by the maximum penalty of life
imprisonment. In cases of trafficking involving less than 3 kg of cannabis,
a person is guilty of an indictable offence and subject to a maximum term of
five years’ imprisonment less a day.
Importing or exporting any Schedule I to VI substance (subsection 6(1));
having in one’s possession any Schedule I to VI substance for the purpose
of exporting it (subsection 6(2)). The following table shows the maximum
penalties for these offences:
Importing or Exporting a Schedule I or II Substance
Importing or Exporting a Schedule III or
or Exporting a Schedule IV Substance
Producing a Schedule I, II, III or IV substance. The expression
“produce” is defined as meaning to obtain a substance by any method or
process including 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. The following table shows the maximum
penalties for this offence:
Producing a Schedule I or
No summary conviction
Producing cannabis (marijuana)
(less than 1 g of cannabis
resin (hashish) or less than 30 g of marijuana)
a Schedule III Substance
a Schedule IV Substance
Possession of property obtained by crime (section 8) and offences relating
to the laundering of proceeds of crime (section 9).
penalties are obviously closely related to the schedule in which the substance
in question appears. Furthermore, the penalties determined for cannabis offences
also vary considerably depending on the quantity involved, a subject discussed
in greater detail below.
of the Act states the purpose of sentencing, which is to contribute to the
respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society
while encouraging rehabilitation, and treatment in appropriate circumstances, of
offenders and acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community. This
section also provides a list of circumstances which the court is required to
consider as “aggravating” factors in determining the sentence that shall be
imposed on a person convicted of a designated substance offence. Those factors
are: the use of a weapon or use of or threat to use violence, trafficking in a
substance on or near school grounds or in or near any public place frequented by
minors or by persons under the age of 18 years, and previous convictions of
a designated substance offence. In addition, the use of the services of a minor
in the commission of a designated substance offence is an aggravating factor.
Any judge deciding not to sentence a person to imprisonment despite the presence
of one or more aggravating factors is required to give reasons for that
Part II: Enforcement
and 12 of the act concern search and seizure activities, which are discussed in
greater detail in Chapter 14.
Section 13 incorporates certain Criminal
Code provisions establishing a detailed plan for the return, reporting and
detention of seized property. In the case of offence-related property, the Criminal Code
provisions apply subject to sections 16 to 22 of the Act. Furthermore, a
separate procedure is established under sections 24 to 29 to determine the
disposal of controlled substances. It should be noted that section 14
provides for the issuing of a restraint order in respect of offence-related
and 17 concern the forfeiture of offence-related property. Offence-related
property is defined as any property, within or outside Canada, by means of or in
respect of which a designated substance offence is committed, that is used in
any manner in connection with the commission of a designated substance offence,
or that is intended for use for the purpose of committing a designated substance
offence, but does not include a controlled substance or real property, other
than real property built or significantly modified for the purpose of
facilitating the commission of a designated substance offence. A court which
convicts a person of a designated offence shall order the forfeiture of
offence-related property where it is satisfied, on a balance of probabilities,
that the property is offence-related property. Where the offence-related
property cannot be related to the offence with which the person is charged, the
court may nevertheless order its forfeiture. The court may make such order where
it is satisfied, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it is offence-related property.
Furthermore, offence-related property may be forfeited even if legal proceedings
were never instituted. The court shall render an order of forfeiture of property
if it is satisfied (1) beyond a reasonable doubt that any property is
offence-related property, and (2) that proceedings in respect of a
designated substance offence in relation to the property were commenced, and (3) that
the accused charged with the offence has died or absconded.
to 22 are essentially a restatement of sections 462.4 to 462.45 of the Criminal
Code. The purpose of these provisions is to protect the interests of
innocent third parties and good-faith buyers. As a general rule, if the court is
satisfied that the claim is lawful, it may order the return of the property (or
payment of its value if restitution is impossible) to the person who is its
legitimate owner or who is entitled to own it.
Section 23 merely incorporates the Criminal Code provisions on forfeiture of proceeds of crime. The
same terms and conditions are thus established in the case of the forfeiture of
the proceeds of designated offences.
Part III – Disposal of
subsection 13(4) of the Act, where a controlled substance has been seized,
a report identifying the place searched, the substance seized and the location
where it is being detained shall be filed with the justice of the peace of the
territorial division concerned. Sections 24 to 29 of the Act govern the
disposal of controlled substances.
establishes the pre‑trial procedure for the return of controlled
substances. For example, any person may, within 60 days after the date of
the seizure, finding or acquisition by a peace officer or inspector, apply to a
justice of the peace for a restitution order. If the justice is satisfied that
the application is valid, he shall order that the substance be returned to the
applicant. In the opposite case, the justice orders forfeiture to the Crown. The
substance is then disposed of in accordance with the applicable regulations or
as the Minister directs. Where no application for return is made, the substance
is delivered to the Minister and disposed of in accordance with the applicable
regulations or, failing such regulations, in such manner as the Minister
should be noted that section 26 enables the Minister to ask the justice of
the peace to order that a controlled substance be forfeited, at any time, if he
has reasonable grounds to believe that it constitutes a potential security,
public health or safety hazard. The application is essentially made ex
parte. If the justice of the peace finds that the Minister has reasonable
grounds to believe that the substance constitutes a potential security, public
health or safety hazard, he orders its forfeiture. The substance is then
disposed of in accordance with the applicable regulations or, if there are no
applicable regulations, in such a manner as the Minister directs.
regulates the post-trial procedure for returning controlled substances
seized–the persons whose substances were seized is entitled to have them
returned where the court rules his activities legitimate. Otherwise, the
substance is returned to the true legitimate owner, provided that that person
can be identified. If neither is possible, the substance is forfeited to the
Crown, which disposes of it in accordance with the applicable regulations or, if
there are no applicable regulations, in such manner as the Minister directs.
enables the Minister to dispose of a controlled substance with the owner’s
under section 29, the Minister may destroy any plants from which a Schedule I,
II, III or IV substance may be extracted and that is being produced without a
regulatory licence or in violation thereof.
Part IV –
Administration and Compliance
part concerns the powers assigned to inspectors to ensure that holders of a
regulatory authorization or licence to deal in controlled substances or
precursors are complying with the regulations.
inspector may, at any reasonable time, enter any place he believes on reasonable
grounds is used for the purpose of conducting that person's business or
professional practice. The Act authorizes inspectors to conduct a series of
inspection acts, including seizing and holding any controlled substance or
precursor which he deems on reasonable grounds must be seized or held. The Act
makes provision for the return of seized property. It should be noted that, in
the case of dwelling-places, the inspector must first obtain the occupant’s
consent or hold a warrant.
Part V – Administrative
Orders for Contraventions of Designated Regulations
part makes provision for the administrative procedure that is to be followed
where a regulation designated by the Governor in Council has been contravened.
Under section 33 of the CSDA, the Governor in Council may proclaim certain
regulations made under section 55 as “special regulations”.
Non-compliance with those regulations may result in administrative orders
providing for severe penalties, including revocation of the permit or licence
issued by the Minister of Health (subsection 40(4)).
Part VI – General
to 60 are general provisions. For example, sections 44, 45 and 51 concern
the designation of analysts, the scope of their duties and the admissibility of
their reports at trial.
creates a general penalty applying to anyone who contravenes a provision of the
Act for which no penalty is specifically provided or contravenes a regulation.
An indictable offence is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or three
years’ imprisonment. An offence punishable on summary conviction results in a
$1,000 fine and/or six months' imprisonment.
section 47, summary convictions for certain offences under the act and
regulations must be commenced within one year of the commission of the offence.
All other summary procedures must be commenced within six months of the
Other sections concern the following matters: that the prosecutor is not
required, except by way of rebuttal, to prove that a certificate, licence,
permit or other qualification does not operate in favour of the accused (section 48);
that a copy of any document filed with a department is admissible in evidence
without proof of the signature of the authority (section 49); that a
certificate issued to a police officer exempting him from the act or its
regulations is admissible in evidence at trial and, in the absence of evidence
to the contrary, is proof that the certificate or other document was validly
issued, without proof of the signature or official character of the person
purporting to have certified it, although the defence may, with leave of the
court, cross-examine the person who issued the certificate (section 50);
that the giving of any document may be proved by oral evidence, affidavit or
solemn declaration, even though the court may require the signatory to appear
(section 52); that the continuity of possession of any exhibit tendered as
evidence in a proceeding may be proved by the testimony, affidavit or solemn
declaration of the person claiming to have had it in his possession (section 53);
and that certified copies of records, books, electronic data or other documents
seized may be presented as admissible evidence by the Minister's officer, the
copied versions having the same probative force as the originals, unless the
accused submits evidence to the contrary (section 54).
establishes the power of the Governor in Council to make regulations. One of the
objectives of Canada's drug policy was to monitor the legal trade in scheduled
drugs for medical or scientific purposes. The CSDA significantly enhanced the
Governor in Council's power to make regulations with respect to designated
substances and precursors. The regulations made under the CSDA apply in
particular to businesses, physicians and pharmacists. The Governor in Council
may thus make regulations, with respect to the designated substances or
v Governing, controlling, limiting, authorizing the importation and exportation, production, packaging, sending, transportation, delivery, sale, administration, possession or obtaining of those substances or precursors;
v Issuing permits to businesses or persons permitting the aforementioned activities, defining the terms and conditions of payment and their revocation, and determining the qualifications required of permit holders;
v Controlling the methods of production, storing, packaging and restricting the advertising, if necessary, for the sale of those substances;
v Governing the books, records, electronic data or other documents that must be established by the businesses, physicians or pharmacists or any other permit holder engaged in the activities enumerated in the first point;
v Authorizing, if necessary, the communication of information obtained through investigations conducted by the inspectors of the Department of Health to provincial authorities in respect of a serious contravention of the regulations concerning the activities defined in the first point so that they may take disciplinary measures;
v Exempting, on conditions set out in the regulations, any person or class of persons from the application of section 55.
subsection 55(2), the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the
Solicitor General of Canada, may make regulations that pertain to investigations
and other law enforcement activities. This includes regulations exempting police
officers, in certain circumstances, from the application of Part I of the
Act (Offences and Penalties).
section 56, the Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister
deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled
substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any
of the provisions of the act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the
Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is
otherwise in the public interest. Section 57 concerns the delegation of the
powers of the Minister and the Solicitor General.
provides that the provisions of the act and the regulations made under it
prevail over any incompatible provisions of the Food and Drugs Act or its regulations.
makes it an offence to make or assent to the making of a false or misleading
statement in any book, record, return or other document that must be made under
the act or regulations.
mentioned, under section 60, the Governor in Council may amend any schedule
to add or delete a controlled substance.
The specific case of
first version of the CSDA, cannabis was cited in the schedule containing the
most dangerous drugs to which the most severe criminal penalties described above
applied. To allay criticism, the government agreed to withdraw cannabis from
Schedule I and created Schedules II, VII and VIII, which concern that
drug exclusively. Schedule II defines cannabis as marijuana, cannabis resin
(hashish) cannabinol, and so on. Schedule VII established at three kilograms
of cannabis or hashish the maximum quantity for the imposition of a less severe
penalty for trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking in that
substance. Lastly, Schedule VIII provided that a person who had less than
one gram of hashish or less than 30 grams of cannabis in his
possession for his own personal use was liable to less severe criminal penalties
than those provided for in Schedule II.
result, if a person is convicted of possession, possession for the purpose of
trafficking or possession of a quantity greater than that defined in Schedules VII
and VIII, the more severe penalties provided for in Part I for Schedule I
or II substances apply. Otherwise, the CSDA defines new criminal penalties. As
regards Schedule VIII, section 4 of the CSDA provides that a person
charged with simple possession of cannabis may be prosecuted summarily and
provides for a maximum term of six months’ imprisonment, a maximum fine
of $1,000 or both. Contrary to the majority recommendation made in the 1972
special report of the Le Dain Commission respecting the reduction of the
penalty imposed for importing and exporting cannabis, life imprisonment still
applies. Lastly, the maximum prison term of seven years provided for by the
Narcotic Control Act for the offence
of cultivation (production) of that drug remains unchanged under the CSDA.
Conclusions of Chapter 12
Ø Early drug legislation was largely based largely on a moral panic, racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate.
Ø Drug legislation often contained particularly severe provisions, such as reverse onus and cruel and unusual sentences.
Ø The work of the Le Dain Commission laid the foundation for a more rational approach to illegal drug policy by attempting to rely on research data.
Ø The Le Dain Commission's work had no legislative outcome, except in 1996, in certain provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, particularly with regard to cannabis.
Ø No action was taken on the reform proposals introduced in the 1970s, particularly for the decriminalization of cannabis.
Ø Thirty years after the Le Dain Commission, the legislation and its application have had no notable effect on the supply and demand of cannabis.
Ø The present act Act takes no account of data from research on the comparative effects of various substances, particularly the effects of cannabis.
 Pires, A.P., (2002) op. cit., page 43.
INCB (2002) pages 58-60 in particular.
Testimony by Neil Boyd, Professor of Criminology, Simon Fraser
University, before the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, Canadian
Senate, Second Session of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament, October 16, 2000,
Issue 1, page 49.
chapter is based largely on the excellent report prepared at the
Committee’s request by François Dubois, research assistant to
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin: Le
Parlement fédéral et l’évolution de la législation canadienne sur les
drogues illicites, Ottawa: Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs,
June 2002. This report is available on line at
See Chapter 19 for more details.
We note in passing that in fact these were synthetic opium
derivatives such as morphine. It
was not discovered until much later that smoking heroin was much less
harmful to the user than injecting it or using its synthetic derivatives.
We can also draw a parallel with synthetic derivatives of cannabis,
which cause more problems than smoking cannabis, as we saw in Chapter 9.
 Line Beauchesne talks about large pharmaceutical companies that flooded the market by manufacturing these products en masse and then trying to dispose of them in any way possible. Beauchesne, L., (1991) La légalisation des drogues… Pour mieux en prévenir les abus. Montreal: Méridien, pages 95-96.
Beauchesne, L. op. cit.,
Beauchesne, L. (1999) “À propos du cannabis, que
Ati-Dion, G., (1999) The
Structure of Drug Prohibition in International Law and in Canadian Law
(Doctoral Paper), Montreal, Université de Montréal, École de
criminologie, page 24.
Giffen, P.J. et al., (1991) Panic
and Indifference: The Politics of Canada’s Drugs Laws, Ottawa:
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, page 53.
Ibid., page 53
Boyd, N. (1991) High
society: Illegal and Legal
Drugs in Canada, Toronto, Key Porter Books, page 27
 William L. Mackenzie King, The
Need for the Suppression of Opium Traffic in Canada. Ottawa,
Parliamentary Document 36b, 1908, 18 pages
L., (1991) op. cit., page
Giffen, P.J. et al.,
(1991) op. cit. page
Testimony by Neil Boyd,
Professor of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, before the Special Senate
Committee on Illegal Drugs, Canadian Senate, Second Session of the
Thirty-Sixth Parliament, October 16, 2000, Issue 1, page 49.
L., op. cit. page
Ati-Dion, G., (1999) op. cit. page
Hansard, House of Commons, July 10, 1908, page 12550
Statutes of Canada 1908, c. 50
Statutes of Canada 1911, c. 17
Hansard, House of Commons,
January 26, 1911, page 2549.
This was discussed in Chapter 10.
P.J., et al., op. cit., page 105.
Statutes of Canada, 1938, c. 9.
Hansard, House of Commons, April 23, 1923, page 2117.
(1991) op. cit., page 117.
Leah, (2000) Historical and Cultural
Uses of Cannabis and the Canadian “Marijuana Clash”, Ottawa: Law and
Government Division, Library of Parliament, Report prepared for the Senate
Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, p. 20, available online at www.parl.gc.ca/illegal-drugs.asp
Giffen, P.J. et al., op. cit. page 179.
Hansard, House of Commons,
1932, page 1792.
Hansard, House of Commons,
February 24, 1938, page 772.
Hansard, House of Commons,
February 24, 1938, page 773.
Statutes of Canada, 1932, c. 20
Jay (2001) The History and Development
of the Leading International Drug Control Conventions, Ottawa: Library
of Parliament, Law and Government Division, report prepared for the Senate
Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, page 15. Available at www.parl.gc.ca/illegal-drugs.asp
Ibid., page 199
Ibid., pages 199-200
Statutes of Canada, 1920, c. 31
Statutes of Canada, 1921, c. 42
Statutes of Canada, 1922, c. 22
Statutes of Canada, c. 49.
Giffen, P.J. et al., op.
cit., page 596.
 Statutes of Canada, 1925,
Statutes of Canada, c. 22.
P.J. Giffen et al., op. cit., page
Ibid., pp. 278-279.
Statutes of Canada, 1920, c. 31.
provision was added to the Act of 1911. In the years that followed, the
criteria for renewing prescriptions issued by physicians were restricted so
that the legal trade in narcotics could be monitored and drug addicts
prevented from obtaining prescriptions and using the drugs thus obtained for
trafficking purposes. For example, the Act of 1921 provided that a
pharmacist could not fill or refill a prescription unless it had been signed
by a physician. The Act of 1923 went further by prohibiting multiple refills
of prescriptions of a drug based on the original prescription. The patient
thus had to consult a doctor each time he wanted to renew.
Statutes of Canada, 1954, c. 38.
 The provisions respecting the deportation of immigrants were
transferred to the Immigration Act in 1952 but still applied to drug
Giffen, P.J. et al., op. cit., pages
Hansard, Senate, February 24,
1955, page 239.
Hansard, Senate, June 23,
1955, page 739.
Senate, June 23, 1955, p. 739.
Hansard, Senate, June 23,
1955, p. 742.
Senate, June 23, 1955, p. 740.
Hansard, Senate, June 23,
1955, p. 740.
Hansard, Senate, June 23,
1955, p. 744.
Hansard, Senate, June 23,
1955, p. 745.
Senate, June 23, 1955, page 741.
Senate, June 23, 1955, page 746.
Statutes of Canada, 1961, c. 35.
Hansard, House of Commons, June 7,
1961, page 6794.
G. Le Dain et al., Cannabis: Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use
of Drugs. Ottawa: Government of Canada, page 221.
P.J. Giffen et al., op. cit., pages
Statutes of Canada, 1961, c. 37.
Hansard, House of Commons, May 30,
1961, page 5799.
of the Food and Drugs Act, 1961.
Statutes of Canada, c. 41.
Section 9 of
the Food and Drugs Act, 1969.
House of Commons, March 27, 1969, page 7203.
House of Commons, March 27, 1969, page 7203.
Le Dain, G., et al., (1973) Canadian
Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, Ottawa:
Government of Canada, page 4.
Marie-Andrée Bertrand, Professor Emeritus of Criminology, Université de
Montréal, Evidence presented to the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs,
Senate of Canada, First Session, Thirty-Seventh Parliament, 2001, page 45.
 Le Dain, G. et
al., (1972) Cannabis: A Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use
of Drugs, Ottawa : Government of Canada, page 230.
Ibid., page 303.
 VALOIS, Donat, “La marijuana et le haschisch ne
seront pas légalisés”, Le Droit,
Ottawa, August 1, 1972.
Spicer, L. (2002) Historical and
Cultural Uses of Cannabis and the Canadian "Marijuana Clash".
Ottawa: Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament.
Giffen, P.J. et al., (1991) Panic and
Indifference: The Politics of Canada’s Drugs Laws. Ottawa: Canadian
Centre on Substance Abuse, page 571.
Briefing notes, Research Office of the Progressive Conservative Party of
Canada, June 1, 1987.
International Narcotics Control Board, Report
of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1987, Vienna, United
Nations Organization, 1988, p. 21.
 The tables of penalties in this section are reproduced from Bill C‑8:
An Act to regulate certain drugs and other substances,
Legislative Summary 240, prepared
by Allain, J., (1996; revised May 1997) Ottawa: Law and Government Division, Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament.
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