Backgrounder: Safe Streets & Communities Act: Increased Penalties for Serious Drug Crime

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As part of its commitment to hold criminals accountable and ensure the safety and security of Canadians, the Government has introduced comprehensive legislation, the Safe Streets & Communities Act, which would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to address serious organized drug crime.

The Safe Streets & Communities Act includes provisions that would:

  • Establish mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences when they are carried out for organised crime purposes, or if they involve targeting youth.

    The proposed legislation supports the National Anti-Drug Strategy's efforts to combat illicit drug production and distribution and help disrupt criminal enterprises by targeting drug suppliers. For the purpose of this initiative, serious drug offences comprise:

    • production;
    • trafficking;
    • possession for the purpose of trafficking;
    • importing and exporting; and
    • possession for the purpose of exporting.
  • Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish mandatory minimum penalties for the aforementioned offences for drugs listed in Schedule I, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and in Schedule II, such as marijuana. Generally, the mandatory minimum penalty would apply where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard. Also, the maximum sentence for production of marijuana would be increased from 7 to 14 years.

    The aggravating factors involve offences committed:
    • for the benefit of organized crime;
    • involving use or threat of violence;
    • involving use or threat of use of weapons;
    • by someone who has been previously convicted (in the past 10 years) of a serious drug offence;
    • in a prison;
    • by abusing a position of authority or access to restricted areas;
    • in or near a school, in or near an area normally frequented by youth or in the presence of youth;
    • through involving a youth in the commission of the offence; and
    • in relation to a youth (e.g. selling to a youth).


    The security, health and safety aggravating factors are:
    • the accused used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;
    • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;
    • the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; and
    • the accused placed or set a trap.
  • Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to move GHB and flunitrazepam, (the so-called date-rape drugs), and amphetamine drugs from Schedule III to Schedule I, which would result in higher maximum penalties for illegal activities involving these drugs.

Exemptions for drug treatment programs

In cases where the offender is an addict, the proposed legislation would allow a court to suspend a sentence while the addicted offender undergoes a drug treatment program approved by the province under the supervision of the court as outlined in section 720(2) of the Criminal Code or a Drug Treatment Court approved program. These programs encourage the offender to deal with the addiction that motivates their criminal behaviour. If the offender successfully completes the treatment program, the court may impose a suspended or reduced sentence.

Review of the CDSA Amendments

The proposed legislation provides that a Committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses would undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act five years after it comes into force.

  • See "Annex A" for the proposed new mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences schedule I drugs (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc.)
  • See "Annex B" for the proposed new mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences Schedule II drugs (cannabis and marijuana)

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Department of Justice Canada
September 2011

ANNEX A

Proposed New Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Serious Drug Offences Schedule 1 drugs (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc.)
OFFENCE MANDATORY MINIMUM PENALTY NOTES
  w/ Aggravating Factor List A¹ w/ Aggravating Factor List B² w/ Health YEARd Safety Factors³
Production 2 YEARS n/a n/a 3 YEARS  
Trafficking   1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a  
Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking   1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a  
Importing
Exporting
1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
2 YEARS
(if more than 1 kg of Schedule 1 substances)
Possession For the Purpose of Exporting 1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
2 YEARS
(if more than 1 kg of Schedule 1 substances)

ANNEX B

Proposed New Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Serious Drug Offences Schedule II drugs (cannabis and marijuana)
OFFENCE MANDATORY MINIMUM PENALTY NOTES
  w/ Aggravating Factor List A¹ w/ Aggravating Factor List B² w/ Health and Safety Factors³
Trafficking   1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a Offence would have to involve more than 3 kg of cannabis marijuana or cannabis resin
Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking   1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a Offence would have to involve more than 3 kg of cannabis marijuana or cannabis resin
Importing
Exporting
1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
Possession for the Purpose of Exporting 1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
Production
6 - 200 plants
6 MOS n/a n/a 9 MOS Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking.
Maximum sentence will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production
201 – 500 plants
1 YEAR n/a n/a 18 MOS Maximum sentence will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production
more than 500 plants
2 YEARS n/a n/a 3 YEARS Maximum penalty will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production
oil or resin
1 YEAR n/a n/a 18 MOS Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking

¹ Aggravating Factors List A

The aggravating factors include offences committed:

  • for the benefit of organized crime;
  • involving use or threat of violence;
  • involved use or threat of use of weapons;
  • by someone who was previously convicted of a designated drug offence or had served a term of imprisonment for a designated substance offence in the previous 10 years; and,
  • through the abuse of authority or position or by abusing access to restricted area to commit the offence of importation/exportation and possession to export.

² Aggravating Factors List B

The aggravating factors include offences committed:

  • in a prison;
  • in or near a school, in or near an area normally frequented by youth or in the presence of youth;
  • in concert with a youth; and
  • in relation to a youth (e.g. selling to a youth).

³ Health and Safety Factors

  • the accused used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;
  • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;
  • the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; and
  • the accused placed or set a trap.