A Brief History of Crime and Drug Laws in Canada

The passage of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in 1996 marked a major shift in the way Canada views and handles drug offences and substance-related crimes. Though the possession of many drugs and controlled substances is still a criminal offence that can result in both fines and jail time, the Act takes various factors into account in its determination of sentencing limits and is part of a shift towards viewing drug offences as public health concerns.

Criminal defence cases against many drug-related offences or accusations is different from other criminal cases in the Calgary courts, and is viewed differently by the Canadian criminal justice system at large. Understanding the difference might help you rest a little easier if you're facing a drug related charge, and for that we need to take a quick look at the recent history of drug laws in Canada.

 Drug Laws and Drug Offences Prior to 1996

Before the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act came along, most of the criminal charges related to drug and controlled substance possession were defined by the Narcotic Control Act of 1961. This law lumped many drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and cannabis (marijuana) together, and treated possession of these substances the same in terms of both defining the severity of a drug offence and the sentencing guidelines for the different substances.

Less than a decade later, in 1969, the Canadian government formed a commission to examine drug policy in the criminal justice system. The Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, also known as the Le Dain Commission, concluded in 1972 and made several recommendations, including the decriminalization of marijuana possession and use and the gradual decriminalization of other drugs as further investigations were made. In essence, the Commission concluded that drug possession and use more effectively viewed as a public health issue rather than a matter for the criminal courts.

Unfortunately, the Canadian government didn't heed the advice of its own commission, and possession of most drugs remains a criminal offence even today. The penalties have shifted, however, and there is a much greater emphasis in the law and in the view and proceedings of the courts on rehabilitation, and on ensuring that persons accused of drug offences can continue to contribute to society. As different substances become better understood and as drug use is reacted to with less fear and condemnation, criminal defence cases involving drug charges continue to evolve somewhat separately from other criminal cases.

You Don't Have to Face a Drug Offence or Accusation Alone

One thing Canadian law has always allowed, and that the Calgary courts have always welcomed, is a criminal defence lawyer to help you determine the best course of action if you have been charged with a drug offence. An experienced lawyer can help you respond to charges and mount an effective defence so you can get your life back on course as quickly as possible.

If you or a family member is facing a drug charge in the greater Calgary area and you would like to consult with a criminal defence lawyer at no cost and with no obligation, please contact Susan Karpa today.