What sentences are given with drug convictions?


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There are two key factors the court will consider when determining a sentence after a drug conviction: the type of illegal substance and the amount involved. Here is a look at some common drug-related charges and their penalties, which all relate to the category the illegal drug falls under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

WHAT ARE DRUG SCHEDULES?

The type of illegal substance you are found with is significant since the CDSA breaks all illegal drugs down into schedules.

  • Schedule I includes hard street drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and opium as well as pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone and morphine.
  • Schedule II drugs include synthetic cannabinoid receptor type 1 agonists, their salts, derivatives, isomers, and salts of derivatives and isomers. Up until 2018 this category included drugs falling within the cannabis family but they are now dealt with under the Cannabis Act.
  • Schedule III drugs are those in the amphetamine family such as lysergic acid diethylamide, better known by its street name of LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).
  • Schedule IV includes popular pharmaceuticals such as diazepam, benzodiazepine and anabolic steroids.
  • There are currently no Schedule V drugs.
  • Schedule VI is made up of the precursors used to make other drugs. 

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR TRAFFICKING?

Trafficking any drug included in any schedule is illegal. The charge of trafficking a substance included in Schedule I or II is treated as an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for life. There is a minimum punishment of imprisonment of one year in jail if: 

  • you are connected to a criminal organization; 
  • you used violence or carried a weapon when you committed the offence; or
  • you served time for a drug offence within the previous 10 years.

The minimum punishment rises to two years if you are caught trafficking near a school or any place frequented by those under 18 or if you committed the offence in a prison. The same penalty applies if you used the services of a person under the age of 18 during the commission of the crime.

If the trafficked drug is included in Schedule III, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison for an indictable offence or 18 months for summary convictions. For Schedule IV drugs, the maximum sentence is three years for indictable offences and one year for summary convictions.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR EXPORTING DRUGS?

If you are charged with possession for the purpose of exporting and are caught with less than a kilogram of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug, s. 6 (3) of the Act mandates a minimum punishment of one year behind bars if: the offence is committed for the purposes of trafficking; you abused a position of trust or authority; or if you had access to a restricted area. 

If you are caught with more than a kilogram, the minimum punishment increases to two years. With both charges, life in prison is the maximum sentence that can be imposed.

If the drug you are caught with is included in Schedule III, V or VI, the maximum sentence is 10 years, with no minimums. For Schedule IV drugs, the maximum sentence is three years behind bars.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR PRODUCING DRUGS?

It is illegal to produce a drug included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V unless officially authorized. If you are convicted of producing a Schedule I drug, there is a minimum punishment of three years behind bars if: 

  • you used real property that belongs to a third party in committing the offence;
  • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to persons under the age of 18; or
  • you placed a trap, device or anything likely to cause bodily harm near where the offence was committed.

If the drug produced is included in Schedule II, the minimum sentence falls to one year if the production is for the purpose of trafficking. Another six months will be added to the minimum sentence if the production constituted a potential security or safety hazard to persons under the age of 18 or if you placed anything likely to cause bodily harm near where the offence was committed.

The maximum penalty for producing Schedule 1 and II drugs is life imprisonment.

If the drug you were producing is included in Schedule III or V, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. With Schedule IV drugs, the maximum penalty drops to three years.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR POSSESSION?

No one is allowed to possess a substance included in Schedule I, II or III unless it is to be used for medical, scientific or industrial purposes. Part 1 of the CDSA states that for Schedule I drugs, the maximum sentence is seven years in prison for indictable offences or six months for summary convictions. 

For Schedule II drugs, the maximum sentence is five years for indictable offences and six months for summary convictions. 

For Schedule III drugs, the maximum sentence is three years in prison for indictable offences and one year for summary convictions. 

For Schedule IV drugs, the maximum sentence is 18 months in jail, and less severe if the charge is treated as a summary conviction.

Possession charges are laid if you are found with drugs on your person or in your residence. However, you can also be charged if the drugs are found elsewhere and the police can demonstrate you had knowledge and some level of control over them. For example, if you had access to a storage locker where the drugs were discovered. 

EXPERIENCED DEFENCE COUNSEL MAKES A DIFFERENCE

The penalties associated with the drug violations can be harsh, with sentences of life in prison in certain circumstances. If you are facing a charge related to narcotics, contact me for a free consultation. I have the experience and skills you are looking for.