I’ve been charged with Drug Trafficking. What do I need to know?

You commit the crime of Drug Trafficking if you do any of these things, or offer to do any of these things, with a drug or substance listed in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA):

  • sell
  • give
  • transport
  • send 
  • deliver

You can also be charged with Drug Trafficking if you sell or give someone a legal substance, but you lie and say it's an illegal substance. For example, you give someone a bag and say it contains cocaine, but the bag actually contains baking soda.

You can also be charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking if you haven't trafficked the drug or substance yet, but you are carrying it or keeping it somewhere with a plan to traffic it later.

The drugs and substances in the CDSA

There are lists of drugs and substances in the CDSA. These lists are referred to as “schedules”.

You can be charged with Drug Trafficking for the drugs and substances listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or V.

Schedule I is for “hard drugs” like cocaine, heroin, meth, and fentanyl. These drugs have a higher risk of addiction and are more likely to be abused. They cannot be purchased legally.

Schedule II is for different types of synthetic cannabinoids. You can learn more about the new laws on cannabis on the Steps to Justice website.

Schedule III substances typically have a lower risk of addiction or abuse. Many can cause you to hallucinate or experience psychedelic effects. Some of these drugs cannot be purchased legally by members of the public, for example, LSD and magic mushrooms. Some of these drugs are available with a prescription, for example, Ritalin and some sleeping pills. Some of these drugs are available on the shelf in pharmacies, for example, some cough suppressants.

Schedule IV includes a wide variety of drugs. Many of them are commonly used as sedatives, pain relievers, or steroids. Some may be available from a pharmacist, for example, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Salvia.

Schedule V currently does not include any drugs or substances.

Maximum sentence

The sentences you can get for Drug Trafficking are:

  • For substances in Schedule I or Schedule II:
    • a maximum of life in prison
    • a minimum sentence of 1 year in jail if:
      • you trafficked with a gang or the mafia
      • you were violent or threatened to be violent
      • you used a weapon
    • a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison if:
      • you trafficked in or near a place where kids hang out, like a school
      • you trafficked in prison
      • you involved a person under age 18 in the trafficking
  • For substances in Schedule III or Schedule V:
    • a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if the Crown proceeds by
    • a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail if the Crown proceeds
  • For substances in Schedule IV:
    • a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison if the Crown proceeds by indictment
    • a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail if the Crown proceeds summarily
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