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Canada: Anti-Drug Legislation

(Mar. 18, 2009) On February 27, 2009, the Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, introduced the second part of a package to address rising levels of gang-related violence by introducing proposed changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, 1996 S.C. c. 19, (last visited Mar. 4, 2009)). (For information on the first part of the package, see Government Introduces Bill to Create Anti-Gang Laws, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 9, 2009), available at // The government believes that much of the gang violence in Canada is attributable to drug trafficking and has devised special drug crimes and punishments for organized criminal groups.

The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would create:

1. a mandatory one-year prison sentence for persons dealing marijuana when carried out for organized crime or when a weapon or violence is used;

2. a mandatory two-year prison sentence for persons dealing cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines to youths under the age of 19;

3. a mandatory two-year prison sentence for persons convicted of growing at least 500 marijuana plants;

4. a maximum penalty for cannabis production of 14 years' imprisonment; and

5. tougher penalties for date-rape drugs.

The proposed legislation would allow one of Canada's Drug Treatment Courts to suspend a sentence while an addict is enrolled in an approved treatment program. A person who has successfully completed such a program may be given a suspended or reduced sentence. However, failure to comply with a Drug Treatment Court's order could result in the imprisonment of the offender. (Bill C-15, 40th Parl. 2nd Sess.,
(last visited Mar. 4, 2009).)

The government has described Bill C-15 as “a proportionate and measured response designed to disrupt criminal enterprise” and has stated that “drug producers and dealers who threaten our communities must face tougher penalties.” (Press Release, Canada Department of Justice, Government Re-Introduces Legislation to Fight Serious Drug Crimes (Feb. 27, 2009), available at

Bill C-15 does not aim to increase minimum or maximum penalties for possession or use of various types of controlled substances by persons who are not involved in organized crime. This will increase its chances of being passed in the House of Commons, where the opposition parties recently supported efforts to decriminalize possession for personal use of small amounts of marijuana. (Canada's Leader Offers Antidrug Plan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 5, 2007, available at