What is illegal drug importing?
It is a criminal offence to import any type of drug into Canada that is prohibited by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). The penalty upon conviction hinges on many factors, the two primary ones being what drug you were found with and the quantity. When it comes to the type of drug, the harshest sentences are given for those that fall into Schedule I of the Act, which includes street drugs such as cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.
Section 6 (1) of the Act makes it a crime to “import into Canada or export from Canada a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV, V or VI.” If the drug falls within Schedule I and you are found with less than one kilogram of the substance, you will be facing at least a minimum sentence of a year in jail up to life in prison, if:
- the drugs were going to be trafficked.
- you abused a position of trust or authority.
- you had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons and used that access to commit the offence.
If you had more than a kilogram of the same drug, the minimum punishment rises to two years.
If you are found importing a substance in Schedule III (the amphetamine family such as LSD and magic mushrooms), you could face up to 10 years in prison if the charge is treated as an indictable offence, or 18 months if it is treated as a summary conviction. For Schedule IV (pharmaceuticals such as diazepam, benzodiazepine and anabolic steroids) substances, the maximum penalty for indictable offences is three years in prison, or one year for summary convictions.
Can I import my own cannabis?
Under the Cannabis Act, it is illegal to import cannabis into Canada without a valid permit or exemption, issued by Health Canada. Cannabis and its related offshoots such as hashish, make up Schedule II in the CDSA. According to government information, these permits are only issued in “limited circumstances,” such as:
- Importing starting materials (e.g., seeds, plants) for a new licence holder;
- Exporting cannabis products to another country that has a legal regime for access to cannabis for medical purposes; or
- Importing or exporting small quantities of cannabis for scientific purposes (e.g., research or testing).
Section 13 (1) of the Cannabis Act makes it a crime to “possess, produce, sell, distribute or import” cannabis. If your charge is treated as an indictable offence the maximum penalty is seven years in prison. If it is treated as a summary conviction, you can be fined a maximum of $5,000, be jailed for up to six months, or both.
Are border agents allowed to search me?
According to information from the Privacy Commission of Canada, Canada Border Services agents have “widespread powers to stop and search people, and examine their baggage and other possessions including devices such as laptops and smartphones. These activities are carried out under the authority of Canada’s Customs Act; a warrant is not required.”
It adds that travellers at airports and border crossings are “subject to close scrutiny and several layers of security measures … because the expectation of privacy is reduced.”
According to information from the CBSA, border agents process approximately 100 million travellers at 1,200 entry points throughout Canada as well as at 39 international locations every year in Canada. The amount of illegal substances they seize is staggering, as these statistics from 2020-2021 (fourth quarter results for 2021 not included) show:
- Total seizures: 65,766
- Cannabis products: 9,229,055 grams
- Hashish: 8,968 grams
- Cocaine/crack: 962,159 grams
- Heroin: 38,654 grams
- Fentanyl: 4,874 grams
- Other opiods: 105,073 grams
- Other narcotics, drugs and chemicals: 17,949,154 grams
What are drug mules?
A drug mule is someone who smuggles narcotics across a border, with the illegal substance hidden in their luggage or vehicle. It can also be attached to the person or placed inside their body through various methods, such as by hiding tiny balloons full of drugs in the vagina, rectum or mouth. Another method is to have the mule swallow the balloons, which will be recovered from excreted material.
According to a news report, a Canadian woman returned from the Dominican Republic to Ottawa with multiple full-sized rum bottles filled with 4.5 kilos of liquid cocaine, worth up to $540,000 on the street. She was sentenced to six years in prison, the story states, with the judge observing “the importation of cocaine has always been considered one of the most serious crimes in Canadian law. The immense social and economic harm caused to the community by cocaine is well known.”
Her lawyer said the incident highlights the danger of being a drug mule, the story states, as he noted: “This is just another case where a drug mule is hammered with a penitentiary sentence and the guy who stood to make all the profit goes free.”
Where do illegal narcotics come from?
According to a UN report, most heroin and morphine is produced exclusively from Afghan opium, adding “while approximately five tons are consumed and seized in Afghanistan, the remaining bulk of 375 tons is trafficked worldwide.”
In 2007 and 2008, the report states that cocaine was used by some 16 to 17 million people worldwide, with North America accounting for more than 40 percent of consumption.
When addressing how the legalization of cannabis has affected its usage in countries such as Canada where it has been legalized, the report states: “it is noteworthy that frequent use of cannabis has increased in all of these jurisdictions after legalization. In some of these jurisdictions, more potent cannabis products are also more common in the market.”
Another UN document states that cannabis was the most used substance worldwide, with an estimated 192 million users. “Opioids, however, remain the most harmful, as over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71 per cent, with a 92 per cent increase among women compared with 63 per cent among men,” it states.
A media report breaks down where popular drugs are originating, noting that “China accounts for nearly 100% of seizures” of fentanyl, which is “largely delivered through the mail … the drug is “pressed into pills domestically, cutting costs and risks to local traffickers.”
The story states that “seizures of gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL), which can be processed into gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), rose from just over 1,000 litres in 2014 to 3,082 litres in 2015,” with most of that substance sent through the mail or delivered on airplanes.
The majority of the world’s cocaine is produced in three Andean countries – Colombia, Bolivia and Peru – but its main points of entry into Canada are from the Caribbean islands, the United States and Mexico, according to the story.
India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and countries in east Africa such as Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda are key transit points for heroin that is largely produced in Afghanistan, the story states, noting that “Heroin is emerging as the drug of choice due to being cheaper and more easily obtainable than prescription opioids [such as] OxyContin.”
Truck driver had special shipment
An Ontario truck driver was arrested when he tried to enter the country with 62 kg of cocaine, an RCMP report states, which was worth approximately $3.5 million on the street. The 25-year-old man was charged with importation of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking, both part of the CDSA.
Drug importing network dismantled
More than 25 Ontario residents were charged in connection with drug offences after an international drug trafficking network was broken up, a news report states, which resulted in the seizure of 48 firearms, $730,000 in cash and $2.5 million worth of drugs – including heroin found at a children’s indoor play centre.
According to the story the “robust” international crime network extended to Western Canada, the United States and India, and involved importing large quantities of cocaine, ketamine, heroin and opium into Canada before distributing the drugs across the country.
The $2.3 million worth of drugs included 10 kilograms of cocaine, eight kilograms of ketamine, three kilograms of heroin and 2.5 kilograms of opium, some of which was found at an indoor play centre, the story states.
How I can help you
Time behind bars is a real possibility if you are caught importing hard drugs into Canada. Your legal options are limited, but book a free consultation with me so we can explore all your options and determine what works best in the circumstances.