What is illegal drug production?

The Canadian judicial system treats illicit drug production crimes harshly. The penalty you will face upon conviction depends on a number of factors, the primary ones being the type of drug being produced and the production levels. If you are caught making hard drugs such as heroin you could be handed a life sentence, while those running large-scale marijuana grow operations could be sentenced to two or three years in jail.

What does the production of an illegal substance involve?

According to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, production can include:

manufacturing, synthesizing or using any means of altering the chemical or physical properties of the substance;
cultivating, propagating or harvesting the substance or any living thing from which the substance may be extracted or otherwise obtained; and the offer to produce an illegal drug.

What are the penalties for drug production?

According to s. 7 of the Act, people are not allowed to produce a substance included in Schedule I, II, III or IV. All illegal drugs fall into one of those Schedules.

According to the Act, the charge of producing a Schedule I drug (which includes heroin, cocaine and fentanyl) is treated as an indictable offence, with a life sentence possible. The minimum sentence is two years, but that minimum rises to three years if any of these aggravating factors are present:

  • you used real property that belongs to a third party in committing the offence;
  • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to people under the age of 18 years who were nearby where the offence was committed;
  • the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
  • you set or placed a trap or device likely to cause death or bodily harm to another person in the location where the offence was committed.

If you are charged with the indictable offence of producing a drug listed in Schedule II (a category that includes cannabis and its derivatives, such as hashish) you could face life in prison. The minimum sentence is one year if the production is for the purpose of trafficking. The minimum sentence is bumped up to 18 months if the production is for the purpose of trafficking and any of the aggravating factors listed above apply.

If you are charged with the indictable offence of producing a drug listed in Schedule III (which includes LSD and magic mushrooms) or Schedule IV (which includes barbiturates, diazepam and benzodiazepine), the Crown can treat it as an indictable with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. If the charge is treated as a summary conviction the maximum penalty is 18 months in jail.

What is the penalty for owning drug-making equipment?

According to s. 7.1 (1) of the Act, it is illegal to possess, produce, sell or import anything that can be used in the production of illegal drugs. If the charge is treated as an indictable offence the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, with a maximum 18-month sentence if the charge is handled as a summary conviction.

How much marijuana can a person produce?

The federal Cannabis Act states that Canadians 19 years of age or older are allowed to grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use. But provinces are allowed to set their own cannabis rules, which is why in Quebec you have to be 21 to possess cannabis and Quebecers are not allowed to grow their own at home. In 2019, a court struck down this restriction and ruled that Quebecers are allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants at home, though the government is appealing this judgment.

In Ontario, a provincial document states that anyone 19 years of age or older can grow up to four cannabis plants per residence, not per person. For example, if you share an apartment with two other 19-year-olds, the group of you are still only allowed to grow four plants in the residence. In addition, they must be for personal use, the starting material must be purchased from the Ontario Cannabis Store or an authorized retail store and the production must not be forbidden by your lease agreement or condo rules.

People can also receive a licence from Health Canada to grow medical cannabis on their own, or designate someone else to grow it on your behalf.

What is the government doing to crack down on drug makers?

In 2007, the federal government implemented a comprehensive National Anti-Drug Strategy to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs. One of the goals is to reduce drug production in the country, such as large-scale marijuana grow operations and clandestine laboratories used to produce drugs such as LSD. The strategy directed more money to police forces to expand their anti-drug teams.
What are the police doing about drug production?

In 2009, the federal government announced the launch of the Synthetic Drug Initiative. The RCMP-led program focuses on just synthetic drugs as a way to reduce the overall influence of organized crime when it comes to drug trafficking in Canada. The initiative also aims to crack down on precursor chemicals arriving from both foreign and domestic sources.

Police forces across the country actively search for drug-production facilities. According to this RCMP statement, clandestine synthetic drug labs are used to produce or prepare synthetic drugs such as meth and MDMA, better known as ecstasy. These labs “pose great dangers to people who live near them, first responders, and operators of the labs,” the RCMP warns, as they may trigger a fire or an explosion due to the solvents and gases being used.

According to information from Statistics Canada, police made 907 arrests in 2019 related to cannabis production or importation/exportation. Charges for the production of other drugs that year include 595 for cannabis, 369 for meth, 318 for ecstasy, 140 for heroin and 2,629 for the production of other drugs or banned substances.

Are marijuana grow-ops dangerous?

According to information from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), “No community is immune from marijuana grow operations; they are located in every province and territory in Canada. The majority are found in residential neighbourhoods, but they have also been discovered in commercial and industrial areas.”

The radical modifications made to buildings that house these grow-ops can create a number of potentially dangerous hazards, it states, explaining that diverting electricity and tampering with electrical wiring can lead to house fires. The re-venting of the furnace to circulate the air to feed the pot plants can also circulate exhaust fumes from the furnace back into the house, leading to a buildup of poisonous gases that are eventually released into the neighbourhood, according to CREA.

Major fentanyl bust in B.C.

In May of 2021, the RCMP busted a drug lab in Port Coquitlam, B.C., that could have produced enough fentanyl in three weeks to provide fatal doses for Canada’s entire population, according to a news report. It stated that police seized 37 kg of chemicals associated with the production of pure fentanyl, representing “approximately 13 million potentially fatal doses, which is equivalent of a fatal dose to more than two and a half times the population of British Columbia.”

The story adds that the lab was designed to create 26 kg of pure fentanyl every week, “meaning that after three weeks, the lab could have produced enough fentanyl to fatally dose Canada’s population.”

Fire leads to drug production discovery

When firefighters in Richmond B.C. arrived at a house fire in October 2020, they found 15 ovens, stacks of pizza boxes and slabs of a strange translucent toffee-like substance, according to a news report. They called the police, the story states, who say the home was used as a cannabis extraction lab and the amber substance was “shatter, a relatively new cannabis concentrate with four to six times the potency of legal marijuana.”

Twenty-five kilograms of the illicitly produced drug were seized, worth up to $2 million on the street, according to the story, adding that the pizza boxes were used as a cover to transport and deliver the drug to buyers.

The news report states shatter is a derivative of marijuana, explaining that while most marijuana has a THC level of between 12 and 20 per cent, shatter has a THC level of 80 to 90 per cent.

How I can help you

Because of the seriousness of the crime, there is a limited range of sentencing options available to someone convicted of drug production, especially if you are caught producing a Schedule I drug. No matter the circumstances, I will carefully examine the Crown’s evidence and advise you on the best way to defend against the charge. The first consultation, in French or English, is free, with a flat fee for each of the next phases of your case. Contact me so we can start building your case.

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