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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Cannabis Control Policy

 Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper

 Health Protection Branch

Department of National Health and Welfare

January 1979

Problems Inherent in Drug Enforcement: Irregular Methods of Enforcement

In addition to extremely broad powers of arrest, search and seizure, the police have employed irregular or unorthodox methods of enforcement, including the use of wiretaps, paid informants, undercover agents, entrapment, trained dogs, strip-searches and massive surprise raids. Although these tactics are legal, in that they have not been successfully challenged, the resort to such methods has been criticized as bringing the administration of criminal justice and the police into disrepute.

Various forms of illegal police conduct are another cost of using the criminal justice system as a means of controlling cannabis-related behaviour. Unlike the situation in the United States and many other countries, drug enforcement in Canada has been relatively unblemished by corruption. However, illegal searches and the use of excessive force appear commonplace. Given the tolerant attitudes of our courts to narcotics enforcement officials, and the fact that illegally obtained evidence is admissible in court, there are few, if any, significant disincentives to illegal searches or physical aggression. The chances that an officer will be sued civilly or disciplined internally are remote, especially if these practices are confined, as they largely appear to be, to young, legally-naive suspects. The use of informants, undercover agents, surprise raids, and physical force have all contributed to the tension and violence that is inherent in narcotics enforcement.

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