Drug Offenses

Lawyers Specializing in Drug Charges & Marijuana Possession

What You Need to Know

Convictions for illegal drug offences often now come with mandatory minimum jail sentences. Even a felony surrounding the possession, production and trafficking of marijuana may carry mandatory minimum jail sentences (for example, growing as little as six plants can result in a 6 month jail term if found guilty). Furthermore, conditional sentencing orders (house arrest) has been almost entirely eliminated in recent changes to the Canadian drug laws.

There is good news, however - drug charges in Canada often give rise to a number of complex and sophisticated legal issues, on which our criminal lawyers can build a solid defence strategy. The courts must prove several key factors in order to get a conviction, which provides opportunities to find errors and inconsistencies in arrest procedures, showing intent, and the validity of the alleged substance in question, to name a few. Our drug attorneys can provide you with legal advice on the best path to take.

Legal Terms and Definitions

In Canada, criminal charges can occur under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, where police gather evidence relating to one or several of these possible charges:

Drug Possession: having in your possession a drug for personal use. This includes but is not limited to: MDMA, cocaine, cannabis marijuana, oxycodone, PCP, amphetamines, morphine, resin, meth, heroin, etc. Drugs are categorized in complex schedules within the Controlled Drug & Substances Act, and being in possession of a Controlled Substance from Schedules 1, 2 or 3 is illegal and considered a felony. There are hundreds of drugs within these three Schedules ranging from heroin, morphine cocaine, codeine (Schedule I), cannabis/marijuana (Schedule II, and amphetamines, LSD, methamphetamines (Schedule III).

Drug Trafficking: selling or transferring drugs to another individual (the intent to distribute must be proven)

Drug Possession for the purpose of trafficking: having in your possession a quantity of drugs large enough to be for the purpose of selling or trafficking the drug. In some cases this could include small amounts of drugs packaged or found in such a state that would appear to be for transfer or sale. 

Drug Importing and Exporting: either bringing/smuggling drugs into or out of Canada 

Production: producing a drug. Examples of this could be growing marijuana; cooking meth; cutting cocaine; cooking crack; etc. 

In order to prove the charges against you the Crown Prosecutor must meet a number of legal prerequisites:

A legal search and seizure. Often police and other law enforcement officials do not know or respect the limits of their powers. These actions often result in unlawful searches and seizures.

Knowledge and Control. The Crown prosecutor must also prove that an accused person knew about the substance found and had the ability to exert some form of control over the drug.

The substance itself. The Crown will also be required to send the drugs seized to a forensic laboratory in order to be analyzed, confirming whether or not the drug seized is, in fact, what the police believe it to be.


Sentencing for drug charges are harsh, and there are mandatory minimums depending on the offence. Convictions for trafficking in a Schedule I (cocaine, morphine, oxycodone), or II (marijuana, resin, etc.) substances also routinely result in jail sentences. The possibility of a conditional sentence order, or “house arrest” has been almost entirely eliminated by recent changes to drug laws in Canada. This means that regardless of the circumstances, you will go to jail if you are convicted. 

In additional to the threat of being deprived of your liberty you also face the possibility of being labeled as “criminal” and losing your ability to travel abroad. A single conviction for possession of a small amount of contraband, such as a single conviction for a small amount of marihuana may prevent you from entering United States forever.

How We Can Help

Given the number of legal complexities surrounding drug cases, you will need experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. Our top Calgary drug lawyers will work to secure the best possible outcome for your case. 

Strategies for Defence
If you’ve been caught with drugs, our firm can assist you in a variety of strategies to defend your drug charges:

Applying for the Alternative Measures Program: 
If you are found in possession of a small amount of a narcotic it may be possible to divert your matter through the Alternative Measures Program. This program allows you to complete community service in exchange for your charges being dropped. You must be referred to the Alternative Measures Program by a Crown Prosecutor. Our lawyers can help negotiate this outcome as well as guide you through the process of completing the program itself.

Going to Trial

Taking your matter to trial means having the Crown Prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt your guilt. Drug cases are complex and almost never black and white. More often than not, there will be evidentiary and legal issues at trial that will give rise to a drug defence. Our criminal lawyers will challenge the charges against you in a number of ways:

Challenging the facts at arrest: Where were the drugs found? Can the Crown prove that the drugs belonged to you or were in your possession? Is the manner in which the drugs were found suggestive that they were to be sold? Was the quantity of drug found great enough to infer that it was possessed for the purpose of trafficking?

Interpreting the drug laws in your favour: We argue the law and an precedent in a way which is most favourable to your specific case and fact scenario. This is achieved through careful and diligent legal research and application, which only comes with years of legal experience.
Applying Violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Every Canadian Citizen and every person within the borders of Canada is entitled to the protection of our Constitution, and more specifically to the rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some of the rights often violated by law enforcement officials are: your right to life, liberty and security of the person; your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; your right to be free from arbitrary detention and your right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right. A violation of your constitutionally protected rights and freedoms which results in evidence being seized (drugs; documents; weapons; money; etc.) could be excluded from evidence at your trial and may render it impossible for the Crown to prove the case against you.

Minimizing your Drug Sentencing

In some cases, the best course of legal action may be to reduce the damage that may be done to you. Not all drug cases are defensible or result in acquittals. In these circumstances, our lawyers can help keep your sentence as lenient as possible. This could include any number of possibilities:

Avoiding a Criminal Record: In less serious drug cases it may be possible to argue for a conditional discharge if you are convicted. This means that it may be possible to avoid the imposition of a conviction on your criminal record despite the fact that you were found guilty.

Avoiding jail time: Where jail is a possibility our lawyers will paint the best picture possible of your personal circumstances in an effort to avoid the possibility of incarceration. Often this will mean you will receive a fine or a period of probation.

Reducing jail time:  In those circumstances where jail is unavoidable, the goal will be to keep any potential jail sentence as low as possible to ensure that your freedom is affected as minimally as possible.

Call us. We can help.

If you have been charged with cocaine or marijuana possession, intent to distribute, trafficking, or any other drug offence, give our Calgary lawyers a call. Your freedom is our focus.

Latest News Of Drug Offenses

March 2017
Discussing the latest in crime topics are Steven Penney, University of Alberta; Greg Dunn, defence lawyer; and Mark Cherrington, Youth Justice Advocate.
February 2009
The Crown will have a tough time proving the guilt of a suspected drug dealer with alleged gang ties, his lawyer said yesterday. And defence counsel Greg Dunn disputed police suggestions his client, Ryan Park Hung Li, has any association with Calgary gang activity. Dunn said provincial court Judge Marlene Graham should release Li, 26, on bail pending trail, arguing the Crown’s case isn’t open and shut. He said Li, who works in construction with his father, is... more