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Drug possession charges – Exploring Canadian Criminal Law Series

May 21, 2021 Published by
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Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), it is illegal to knowingly have any illicit substances under personal possession at any time, regardless of to these substances belong. They can include such drugs as heroin, amphetamines, and cocaine.

Possession of cannabis (marijuana), on the other hand, is no longer forbidden under the Criminal Code of Canada. However, marijuana is strictly regulated and there are limits regarding how much of the substances a person can have. Across Canada, the minimum age for cannabis possession in public is 18, while some provinces and territories, including Manitoba, have raised the minimum age requirement to 19.

What do drug possession charges mean? How are they proved?

For drug possession charges to be proven, the prosecutor must show that a person has physical control of the drug, which can refer to the substance being in someone’s physical custody (a pocket, for example), or in an area such as their home. Additionally, the prosecutor must also prove a person knew the substance in their possession was an illegal substance.

The issue of ownership is not relevant for Canadian drug offences. For example, if a person charged with drug possession argues the substance did not belong to them, but that they were storing/keeping it for someone else, the person can still be found guilty of possession.

Penalties for drug possession

In the scope of Canadian drug offences, drug possession is classified as a hybrid offence, which means the Crown prosecutor will consider the details of the case to decide whether to treat it as an indictable offence, or a summary conviction.

Summary conviction

Summary conviction has a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in prison for a first-time drug offence. If the person charged is facing a second or more charge, the maximum penalty is a $2,000 fine and one year in prison.

Indictment conviction

The maximum penalty for possession is set at 7 years in prison. The penalty can be awarded even for first-time offenders.

Major factors that contribute to a penalty for drug possession:

  • The type of drug that was within an individual’s possession;
  • The quantity found in the person’s possession –larger amounts could indicate a person’s intent to sell, which carries a bigger punishment;
  • The person’s history of drug possession or drug usage (such as whether it is their first offence or not.)

For instance, a person found with a quantity of cannabis slightly over the legal limit is likely to be treated as a summary conviction offence, while possession of heroin can be prosecuted as an indictable offence.

Facing a drug possession charge? Speak to a lawyer in Winnipeg today

When facing drug possession charges, it’s essential to reach out to a lawyer to help navigate the charges and the legal system. Each case is unique. If you are facing a drug possession charge in Winnipeg or Manitoba, our team of experienced lawyers can assist you. We take the time and put in the effort to prepare a defense based on your specific situation, ensuring all our clients get the best possible legal representation.

Contact us through our emergency criminal law line anytime 24/7/365 at 204.997.3967.

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