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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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

In accordance with the commitment the federal government made in 1987, Minister of Health Perrin Beatty tabled Bill C‑85, An Act respecting psychotropic substances, on June 11, 1992. It merged Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act as well as the Narcotic Control Act into a single piece of legislation. Bill C‑85 never passed report stage and died on the Order Paper in September 1993, when the 34th Parliament was dissolved.

On February 2, 1994, the new Minister of Health, Diane Marleau, retabled the legislation proposed by the former government under a different name, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which was passed by the House of Commons on October 30, 1995. After the first session of the 35th Parliament was prorogued, the bill was reintroduced in the Senate on March 6, 1996, and renumbered Bill C‑8. The legislation went into effect on June 20, 1996.

This was the first major reform of Canada's drug legislation since the 1960s. Apart from the amendments made in 1988 under Bill C‑61, the Narcotic Control Act had been amended in 1985 to abolish the writ of assistance and the procedure for establishing proof of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking. In 1987, in R. v. Smith, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minimum prison term of seven years for importing or exporting was unconstitutional under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (cruel or unusual punishment), as a result of which it was repealed.

One of the objects of the bill was to meet Canada's international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Vienna Convention, 1988). It was further designed to introduce a legislative framework for regulating the import, production, export, distribution and use of scheduled substances under previous acts. The following sections describe the main provisions of this legislation.



The merger of the schedule of the Narcotic Control Act with those of the Food and Drugs Acts of 1961 and 1969, combined with the addition of new substances such as benzodiazepines and the precursors of this long list of substances, considerably increased the number of drugs subject to the restrictive provisions and procedures of the CDSA.

The expression "controlled substance" means a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V. In addition, the Act defines the term "analogue" as any substance that, in relation to a controlled substance, has a substantially similar chemical structure. Furthermore, anything that contains or has on it a controlled substance and that is used or intended or designed for use in producing or introducing the substance into the human body will be treated in the same way as that illegal substance.



vv     Schedule I:      narcotic drugs such as opium, morphine and cocaine.

vv     Schedule II:     cannabis, hashish, cannabinol, etc.

vv     Schedule III  stimulants such as amphetamines, hallucinogenics, such as mescaline, LSD and DET, and sedatives such as methaqualone, commonly called quaalude.

vv     Schedule IV:    among others, anabolic steroids, hypnotics such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines (better known by their trademarks Seconal, Luminal, Valium and Librium).

vv     Schedule V    enumerates other substances that may be abused.

vv     Schedule VI  precursors, which produce no effects on the mind but can be converted or used to produce designer drugs, "simili-drugs" or substances contained in the schedules under Canada's international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Vienna Convention of 1988.

vv     Schedules VII and VIII: concerning application of penalties for cannabis



A total of more than 150 drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors now appear in the schedules of the act. It should be noted that section 60 of the CDSA continues the provision adopted in 1911 that the Governor in Council may, by order, amend any one of the schedules of the act by adding or deleting one or more substances where the Governor in Council deems the amendment to be necessary in the public interest.


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