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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

(2) Bill S-19. In November, 1974, the government introduced cannabis reform legislation, Bill S-19, in the Senate. With some modifications, the Senate passed the Bill in June, 1975. The Bill would have transferred control of cannabis from the Narcotic Control Act to a new Part V of the Food and Drugs Act, reduced the maximum penalties far all offences (except cultivation), and removed the Crown's discretion to proceed by indictment in the case of possession while extending the discretion to proceed by summary conviction in lieu of indictment to all other offences.

The maximum penalties for simple possession were to be fines of $500 for a first offence and $1,000 for any subsequent offences. In default of payment of these fines first offenders were to be imprisoned for up to three months and subsequent offenders for up to six months. First "possession" offenders who were discharged rather than convicted would have been "deemed" to have been granted a pardon under the Criminal Records Act. The sanctions for commercial conduct would also have been substantially modified. Traffickers, including those convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking, would have been liable to a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 18 months on summary conviction, or imprisonment for up to 14 years less a day if the Crown proceeded by indictment. Importing and exporting would have carried maximum penalties of 2 years and 14 years less a day, on summary conviction and indictment, respectively. The maximum penalty for cultivation would have been increased to 10 years (on indictment), but a summary conviction would have carried a maximum $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 18 months.

Bill S-19 was later introduced in the House of Commons, but died on the order paper in October, 1976.

While moving well beyond the current provisions of the Narcotic Control Act, Bill S-19 remains an example of the mitigation alternative. Apart from the dubious value of a deemed pardon in the case of first offenders, S-19 does not alter the criminal character of a possession prosecution apart from reducing the severity of the maximum penalties that presently obtain.

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