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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 2 - Policies and Practices In Canada
Chapter 12 - The National Legislative Context

Bill S‑19 and cannabis

Bill S‑19 created Part V of the Food and Drugs Act entitled “Cannabis”. Thus, as recommended in the majority opinion expressed in the Le Dain Commission’s special report, cannabis and cannabis users were no longer subject to the harsh provisions of the Narcotic Control Act.

Clause 7 of Bill S‑19 defined “cannabis” as hashish, marijuana, cannabidol and THC. It continued the offence of possession, which, however, could only be prosecuted summarily. Anyone convicted of a first offence would be liable to a maximum fine of $5000 or, failing payment, to a maximum prison term of six months. For repeat offences, the fine would be fixed at an amount not exceeding $1,000 or, failing payment, a prison term not exceeding six months could be imposed. As may be seen, fines were favoured over imprisonment for simple possession.

The Bill also maintained the offences of trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking and cultivation of cannabis without a permit provided for by the Narcotic Control Act, punishable on summary conviction by a maximum fine of $1,000 or a prison term of up to 18 months or, if prosecuted by way of indictment, by a prison term of up to 10 years. The penalties provided were thus less severe than those provided for by the Act of 1961, except for the cultivation of cannabis. Although Bill S‑19 created a dual-procedure offence for this crime, the maximum prison term was more severe (10 years rather than seven if prosecuted by way of indictment).

Lastly, a person convicted of importing or exporting cannabis was liable, on summary conviction, to a maximum prison term of two years or, if prosecuted by way of indictment, to a prison term of three to 14 years. Parliament thus wanted to show that cannabis trafficking and smuggling were crimes which it still considered very serious.

Apart from these offences, Bill S‑19 also contained the criminal procedures included in Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act (evidence of possession for the purpose of trafficking, certificate of the analyst, police powers and so on). Lastly, the provisions respecting regulations that the governor in council may make concerning the issuing of cultivation permits and possession of cannabis were now contained in the new Part V.

The Bill was considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which, in its report, recommended three amendments. The first added a provision for an exception to the Criminal Records Act so that any person receiving an absolute or conditional discharge would be automatically pardoned. The purpose of this measure was to eliminate the possibility that a criminal record might remain with the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) following discharge. The second amendment increased the maximum prison term for trafficking in a narcotic from 10 to 14 years less a day. The third repealed the minimum term of three years for smuggling.

Bill S‑19 was passed on third reading on June 15, 1975 and referred to the House of Commons, where it never passed second reading. In the fall of 1976, Mitchell Sharp stated in an interview that the bill would not be reintroduced since more important legislation was under consideration.



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