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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

(1) Prohibition. The Narcotic Control Act prohibits possession, trafficking (including possession for the purpose of trafficking), import, export and cultivation of cannabis. These acts are criminal offences and, consequently, all relevant aspects of the Criminal Code, such as the procedural and penal provisions, obtain. With respect to simple possession, the Crown may proceed by way of summary conviction (in which case offenders are liable to six months imprisonment and/or fines of one thousand dollars for a first offence and one year imprisonment and/or fines of two thousand dollars for a subsequent offence) or indictment (for which offenders are liable to a maximum of seven years' imprisonment). All other offences may be proceeded against only by way of indictment. Persons who cultivate marijuana are liable to up to seven years' imprisonment. Trafficking, including possession for the purpose of trafficking, carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, as do import and export. These two latter offences are subject to a mandatory minimum penalty of seven years' imprisonment. The court's sentencing discretion is expanded by the penal provisions (Part XX) of the Criminal Code. Since 1972, persons who plead or are found guilty of simple possession or cultivation may be "discharged," absolutely or conditionally, in lieu of being convicted. As previously indicated, a discharge does not immunize the offender from a criminal record nor, for example, does it allow him to deny having been prosecuted or sentenced for, or having been found guilty of, a criminal offence.

The Narcotic Control Act defines trafficking so as to include the nonprofit giving of cannabis from one person to another. The Act does not differentiate between cannabis and other "narcotics" such as heroin and cocaine. Nor are statutory distinctions drawn between the quantities of cannabis involved in various incidents or transactions. It has been left to the courts, when sentencing, to distinguish between more and less serious trafficking, importing and cultivation offences. Similarly, any person in possession of any amount of cannabis may at the federal prosecutor's discretion, be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. In such cases, upon proof of possession the onus of proof is statutorily shifted from the Crown to the accused to establish that he was not in possession for the alleged purpose.

A more detailed description of the Narcotic Control Act appears in Appendix C.

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