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Charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking or Distribution – What do I Need to Know?

Criminal Offence

Possession of a scheduled substance for the purpose of trafficking or distribution in a scheduled substance (the “offence”) is a common charge that carries serious penalties including jail. Possession for the purpose of trafficking or distribution is a contravention of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA), which is the governing law over drugs and outlines the offences and penalties for violations of the law.

The CDSA contains a list of drugs classified under Schedules. The Schedules range from Schedule I to Schedule IX. For a list of all the controlled drugs regulated by Canada or for more information on the topic, please visit

Gathering Evidence

The offence can be investigated in various ways. For instance, the police may find the drugs through an executed search warrant of the home of a suspected drug trafficker. Even if the police do not find the suspect actually “distributing” the substance, the discovery of a large quantity of drugs can support the presumption of the offence. The substance is then seized, weighed and tested to determine if it is in fact a scheduled substance, in other words, listed in one of the Schedules I-IX from the CDSA.

It is common for police to seize other related items such as weighing scales, bags, debt lists, cash and/or weapons. These items are then used to persuade the court that trafficking was taking place.

For a Conviction

For a conviction to occur, the Crown must prove that the accused had “possession” of the particular substance in question. How the offence is raised to that of “trafficking or distribution” is based on the amount of the substance found. The presumption then becomes that the possession was for the purposes of trafficking and distribution and not personal consumption. For this criminal offence, it is important that the substance be proven to be what it is alleged to be.


The penalty will depend and differ greatly based on the Schedule in which the substance is registered. Even within a Schedule, penalties differ. For instance, possession for trafficking of crack cocaine will attract higher sentences than in powdered cocaine. The reason behind the differing penalties is based on the particular substance’s perceived harm to society as well as the more lucrative compensation associated with the distribution. The quantity in issue will play a significant factor in the sentencing stage and the ultimate sentence imposed. As expected, larger quantities will lead to more severe penalties.

It is interesting to note that in the year 2010, a series of amendments were made to the CDSA, which effectively resulted in many “mandatory minimums” associated with certain pre-determined substances. Minimum sentences can range anywhere from one to two years.

Where the accused has a prior similar offence or where the possession of the illegal substance was accompanied by other factors such as the possession of weapons or violence, the sentence imposed would be more severe.

If you are wondering how the police can be sure that the accused intended to traffic or distribute the illegal controlled drug found in his or her possession, there is a threshold for possessing a certain amount of that drug that will trigger a possession for the purpose of trafficking and/or distribution charge. It does not matter if the accused intended to sell the drugs or not; what you should know is that just having a certain amount (i.e.: significant quantity) is all the police need to support the presumption of possession of substance for the purpose of trafficking or distribution.

Charged with a Drug Related Offence

If you have been charged with a drug related offence, it is imperative that you retain the services of one of our criminal defence lawyers, who deal with these types of cases on a routine basis.

Drug offences are serious and can have severe penalties including jail time and a criminal record that would hamper your future opportunities. Where your liberty is at stake, it is important that you do your due diligence and ensure that a professionally trained and experienced lawyer is advocating on your behalf. Give our office a call and take advantage of our free 30-minue legal consultation.

Yasmine Al-Zaman

Yasmine’s patience, compassion and understanding allow her to work collaboratively and effectively with her clients. She appreciates the level of fear and confusion most people feel when confronted with the legal system. With that in mind, Yasmine puts her best foot forward to offer quality legal services.

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