Illegal drug use is on the rise in Toronto and opioid-related deaths are at record highs compared to previous years. At the same time, courts in Ontario are overwhelmed with drug possession cases resulting in a considerable backlog.
We’ll examine Canadian drug possession laws, drug possession statistics in Toronto and Canada and take a look at how illegal drugs are classified. We’ll also discuss what you can do to fight drug possession charges in Canada.
A Breakdown of the Primary Categories of Illegal Drugs in Canada
In Canada, drugs are classified into seven main categories each with its own regulations and penalties for possession.
- Schedule 1: These are hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, opium, as well as some pharmaceutical-grade drugs such as oxycodone. The penalties for schedule 1 drugs are 6 months to 7 years in jail.
- Schedule 2: These are Cannabis, including marijuana and its derivatives and synthetic preparations like hashish. The penalties are 6 months to 5 years in jail.
- Schedule 3: These are drugs in the amphetamine family including meth, and LSD. The penalties for schedule 3 drugs are 6 months to 3 years in jail.
- Schedule 4: These include pharmaceutical drugs like diazepam, benzodiazepine and anabolic steroids. The penalties are 6 months to 18 months in jail.
- Schedule 5: Only includes propylhexedrine, which is a non-prescription nasal decongestant and a synthetic stimulant similar to methamphetamine.
- Schedule 6: Has three sections that Include precursors for drugs, or materials used to make drugs such as Class A: ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and ergotamine – all used to make meth, Class B: ethyls ether, hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid – all used to make cocaine, Class C: a catch-all that covers any preparation or mixture of Class A or B.
- Schedule 7: These are certain weights of cannabis in the form of resin or cannabis up to 3kg.
Statistics of illegal drug possession in Toronto
There is currently an epidemic of overdoses and drug related deaths in Toronto. A scathing report by Toronto Public Health released this summer reveals that there were 521 confirmed overdose deaths in 2020, a 78% increase over 2019.
Drug deaths are on the rise as is the number of people arrested for drug offences. In 2019, there was a 48% increase in drug offences related to opioids and a 3% increase in charges related to cocaine and meth. The result is an overwhelmed court system with a huge backlog of cases delayed due to COVID.
To help clear the backlog, many drug possession cases have been withdrawn or stayed – in fact, 85% of all drug possession charges in courts across Ontario in 2020 have been withdrawn. These dismissals are also in response to a push from public health officials asking legislators to decriminalize drug use. It also comes a year after a 2020 directive asking federal prosecutors to avoid prosecuting drug possession charges.
Minimum and Maximum Penalties for Possession
According to the Criminal Code and Drug and Substances Act, if you are found guilty of possession of drugs in Canada, you are
“(a) guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable
(i) for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both, and
(ii) for a subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both.”
What to Do if you Have Been Accused of Drug Possession
If you have been accused of personal possession, you need an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the charges. To be found guilty of possession, the Crown must prove that the accused:
- Has the substance on their person
- Were knowingly in possession or custody of another person or any place had control over the substance, or
- Have knowledge and consent that another person had the substance.
All this can be very challenging to prove in court.
An experienced lawyer can advise you on what to say to the police and help you get the best outcome for your case. If you have been charged with drug possession in Toronto, contact William Jaksa today for a consultation on your case.