Canadian Criminal Sentencing/Offences/Drug Trafficking (Schedule I)

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Drug Trafficking (Sch. I)
Section 5 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Election / Plea
Election Indictable
Jurisdiction Prov. Court
SC Judge + PI
SC Jury + PI
Indictable Dispositions
Avail. Disp. Discharge

Suspended Sentence
Fine
Fine + Probation
Jail
Jail + Probation (s. 731(1)(b))
Jail + Fine

Conditional Sentence
Minimum N/A
Maximum life in jail
References
Offence Elements
Sentence Principles
Sentence Digests
Related Offences
Trafficking (Sch. II), (Sch. III), (Sch. IV)

Legislation[edit]

Trafficking in substance
5. (1) No person shall traffic in a substance included in Schedule I, II, III or IV or in any substance represented or held out by that person to be such a substance.

(2) No person shall, for the purpose of trafficking, possess a substance included in Schedule I, II, III or IV.

Punishment
(3) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2)

(a) subject to subsection (4), where the subject-matter of the offence is a substance included in Schedule I or II, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life;

...

Punishment in respect of specified substance
(4) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2), where the subject-matter of the offence is a substance included in Schedule II in an amount that does not exceed the amount set out for that substance in Schedule VII, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years less a day.

Interpretation
(5) For the purposes of applying subsection (3) or (4) in respect of an offence under subsection (1), a reference to a substance included in Schedule I, II, III or IV includes a reference to any substance represented or held out to be a substance included in that Schedule.

...

CDSA

Schedule I: Cocaine, Crack, Heroin, etc.[edit]

For principles on Drug Offences Generally, see Drug Offences

Principles[edit]

There is a distinction made in law between hard drugs (such as cocaine) and soft drugs (such as marijuana).[1]

The societal costs of drug abuse and trafficking are significant.[2] They include the effects on health care, lost productivity and financial loss due to enforcement.

Many courts have spoken to the societal harm of drug trafficking.[3] Trafficking and use of cocaine has a close connection with violent crime.[4]

Offenders found trafficking in a Schedule I controlled substance (e.g. Opiates) are liable for an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of life in jail.

Trafficking in cocaine is typically a jail sentence. This is particularly true in "dial-a-dope" schemes which are a form of commercial trafficking.[5]

The destructive nature of methamphetamines “mirror those of two other hard drugs, heroin and cocaine”.[6]

  1. R. v. Tuck, [2007[ O.J. No. 2626 (C.A.) at para. 2
    R. v. Wellington 1999 CanLII 3054 (ON CA), (1999), 132 C.C.C. (3d) 470 (Ont. C.A.) at 476
    R. v. Cunningham1996 CanLII 1311 (ON CA), (1996), 104 C.C.C. (3d) 542 (Ont. C.A.) at 547
  2. Pushpanathan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1998 CanLII 778 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 982, at pp. 1039-1040
  3. see R. v. Aitkens, 2004 BCCA 411 (CanLII), 2004 BCCA 411 at para. 7: "Drug trafficking has become a blight in our society"
    R. v. Beaudry 2000 ABCA 243 (CanLII), (2002), 37 C.R. (5th) 1 (Alta. C.A.) at para. 158 and 165 ("The damage to the community from trafficking in cocaine is substantial, and extends well beyond the offender and his prospective customers ... it contributes to a variety of other offences, with the potential for extremely serious health and economic consequences. Drug trafficking remains a serious problem in Canada.")
    R v Woolcock, [2002] OJ No 4927 at para. 8 (“There is no dispute that crack cocaine is an extremely dangerous and insidious drug with potential to cause a great deal of harm to individuals and to society.”)
    R. v. Johnson, [2010] B.C.J. No. 301 (C.A.) at para. 29 ("correctly took into account the serious effect that cocaine has on fellow citizens and [the offender's] role in spreading this 'disease'.")
  4. R. v. Hamilton 2004 CanLII 5549 (ON CA), (2004), 72 O.R. (3d) 1, at para. 104
  5. R. v. Sawatsky, 2007 ABCA 353
    R. v. Maskill, (1981), 29 A.R. 107, 58 C.C.C. (2nd) 408 at para. 20 and
    R. v. Rahime, 2001 ABCA 203
  6. R v Villanueva, 2007 ONCJ 87 at 27
    see also R. v. Nguyen, 2011 ONSC 6229 at 41 (“The danger of methamphetamine to human life is becoming uncontrovertibly clear.”)

Ranges[edit]

Sentencing ranges vary between provinces. In Nova Scotia, an appropriate sentence for trafficking of Schedule I substances will range will typically span from 3 to 5 years. As such, conditional sentences are rarely available.[1]

In Saskatchewan, the range is between 18 months to 4 years for trafficking.[2]

In Newfoundland, trafficking in small quantities of cocaine is a sentence in the range of 6 to 18 months.[3]

It is infrequent that it will go below two years[4] and so will virtually guarantee a federal sentence.[5] There is no fixed minimum, however. There is still significant discretion.[6]

However, it is not unreasonable in certain exceptional circumstances to have sentences below two years.[7] The starting point for commercial trafficking in cocaine in small quantities is three years for most provinces.[8]

The range of sentence for trafficking of cocaine in the amounts of 1 kg or more will typically see sentences in the range of 5 years.[9] Larger amounts upward of 3 kg will attract a range of 6 to 8 years.[10]

In Ontario, the range of sentencning for trafficking in small amounts of crack cocaine is 6 months to 2 years less a day.[11]

In Manitoba, there are several recognized levels of trafficking in cocaine:

  1. Low (street dealer): sentences typically start at less than two years and can range up to four years. [12]
  2. Low-Mid (mere courier): sentences for couriers can be between 3 to 6 years.[13]
  3. Mid (more than mere courier of large quantities): sentences typically range from 5 to 8 years if they are an insider, while couriers are in the range of 3 to 6 years.[14]
  4. High: (multi-kilogram trafficker): sentences typically range from 8 to 12 years[15]

Manitoba court has stated that the mid-level drug deal has a range of sentence between 7 to 8 years.[16] It has been further suggested that “a person who traffics in a sophisticated manner at a kilogram level should, absent significant mitigating factors, expect no less a penalty than 10 years' incarceration. It should not matter whether that drug is cocaine or methamphetamine.” [17]


  1. R. v. Knickle, 2009 NSCA 59
    R. v. Conway, 2009 NSCA 95
  2. R. v. Aube, 2009 SKCA 53 at para 19
    R v Shawile, 2012 SKCA 51
  3. R. v. Taylor, 2012 CanLII 1915 (NL SCTD) at para 12
  4. R. v. Dawe 2002 NSCA 147
  5. R. v. Jamieson, 2011 NSCA 122 at 38
  6. R. v. Ostertag, 2000 ABCA 232, 266 A.R. 57 at paras. 12-16
  7. R. v. Murphy (M.P.), 2011 MBCA 84
    R. v. Panko (D.), 148 Man.R. (2d) 138, 2000 MBCA 45
    R. v. Reid (B.A.C.) 1998 CanLII 17760 (MB CA), (1998), 131 Man.R. (2d) 153
    R. v. Champagne (D.A.), 2000 MBCA 66, 2000 MBCA 66, 148 Man.R. (2d) 104
  8. AB: R. v. Maskill, (1981), 29 A.R. 107, 58 C.C.C. (2d) 408 (C.A.);
    R. v. Rahime, 286 A.R. 377 at para. 26 2001 ABCA 203
    R. v. Marchesi, 460 A.R. 294 at para. 4 2009 ABCA 304
    R v Rainville, 2010 ABCA 288 at para 6
    R v Chung, 135 AR 351 (CA), 18 WCB (2d) 611
    NS: R. v. Knickle, 2009 NSCA 59
  9. R. v. Bajada 2003 CanLII 15687 (ON CA), (2003), 169 O.A.C. 226 (C.A.)at para. 13
  10. R. v. Oraha, 2012 ONSC 1439 at 31
  11. R v Woolcock [2002] OJ No 4927 at 15
    R v MAdeiros, [2001] OJ No 5664 (Ont. SCJ)
    R v Radassao, [1994] OJ No 1990 (ONCA)
  12. R v Gilchrist, 2004 MBCA 21
  13. R v Rocha, 2009 MBCA 26 at 61 to 64
  14. R v Rocha 2009 MBCA 26 at 61 to 64
  15. R v Oddleifson, 2010 MBCA 44
  16. R. v. Rocha, 2009 MBCA 26 at para. 64; R. v. Traimany, 2011 MBCA 104 at 3
  17. R v Grant, 2007 MBQB 13 at 73

Conditional Sentences[edit]

In Ontario and Newfoundland, the conditional sentence is available for trafficking in only rare cases.[1] Those who are involved in a “dial-a-dope” operation will generally be sentenced to incarceration.[2]

In Saskatchewan, conditional sentences are available for trafficking in hard drugs. The appropriateness of a conditional sentences depends on several factors:[3]

  1. the sophistication and significance of the offence and the accused's place in it;
  2. the type and quantity of drug;
  3. the motivation for the offence: those who traffic to support their own habit may be more likely to receive a restorative disposition than those who traffic for other reasons;
  4. the need for and the utility of the deterrence which will be provided by the sentence imposed;
  5. the factors relating to the community like the significance of the problem; and,
  6. the age, lack of record and other personal circumstances of the accused.


  1. R v Ly 1997 CanLII 2983 (ONCA) at 286 ("will be looked to only rarely in cases of drug trafficking")
    R. v. Brown 1997 CanLII 10869 (NL CA) at 155
  2. R. v. Sawatsky, 2007 ABCA 353 (CanLII), 2007 ABCA 353 at para. 4 ("We agree with the Crown that those who organize and manage "dial-a-dope" schemes to traffic in drugs, such as cocaine ... should usually be sentenced to terms of actual incarceration.")
  3. R v Pankewich, 2002 SKCA 7 at para. 49

See Also[edit]