A Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer's Perspective on Drug Offences

Attitudes towards the criminalization of drug possession have been undergoing significant changes in Calgary and throughout Canada over the past few decades, in response to an increasingly evidence-based look at how criminalizing drug use impacts the rates and outcomes of drug use. Criminal defence lawyers have more reason than most to stay up-to-date on their knowledge of drug use and drug offence laws in Calgary, and that knowledge can help everyone, not just persons accused of drug-related crimes, understand the problem of drug criminality now and as it might look in the future.

Assisting Drug Users: From Criminal Defence Lawyers to Public Health Workers

Though it remains a criminal offence to possess many drugs and controlled substances, including the unauthorized possession of many pharmaceutical drugs, Canadian law and Canadian society have been shifting away from viewing drug use as a criminal problem and towards a perspective that sees drug use primarily as a public health concern. Most of the medical community and those involved in social work and community-building have heralded this shift as an overdue reaction to mountains of carefully collected evidence, however some hardliners in Calgary and throughout the nation still think drug use is best controlled by enacting harsh criminal penalties for drug possession offences.

The facts don't really support that line of thinking, however.

According to the latest available statistics from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey conducted by Health Canada, drug use (and alcohol use) has fallen consistently over the past decade, a decade when rehabilitation and other criminal diversion programs have been implemented to treat drug users rather than forcing them to defend themselves in the criminal justice system. The decline in drug use has been more dramatic for some substances than for others the use of cocaine and its derivatives was more than halved between 2004 and 2011, while the rate of marijuana (or cannabis) use has fallen by only about 11% but this downward trend is observable across all measured types and classes of illicit substances.

What this seems to indicate, at least to the eyes of a criminal defence lawyer who has helped many Calgary citizens accused of drug-related offences, is that newer mentalities towards drug use and the available criminal diversion and rehabilitation programs are working. Reduced criminal penalties and increased alternatives to a criminal conviction have not encouraged drug use, but rather have helped it decline throughout Canada. If drug use is seen as a problem in and of itself, the new approach to drug possession appears to be a better solution than imposing harsh criminal penalties.

Why Criminal Defence Lawyers Are Still Involved in Calgary Drug Offence Cases

This new attitude towards addressing drug-related offences and public health concerns is far from universal, and far from total. It likely never will be, perhaps with good reason, but as it stands today there are still very real and very significant criminal consequences for many drug-related charges, including the crime of simple drug possession. While drug use might be primarily seen as a public health concern, there are still legal aspects to virtually every drug possession case.

If you or a family member is facing criminal charges or other legal penalties for possession of drugs or controlled substances and would like a free consultation with an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer, please contact Susan Karpa today.