Recently, an international study suggested that Canada was high on the list of countries in per capita marijuana consumption. The Association of Police Chiefs of Canada has recommended its decriminalization. However, in Canada, contrary to the view of many Canadians, possession of marijuana in any quantity is still a criminal offence contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
In the Toronto area, individuals charged with a first offence of possession of marijuana (for their personal use) will ordinarily be eligible for Drug Diversion where the charge is withdrawn by the Federal Crown Attorney upon the performance of a particular act, community service or charitable donation.
It is very important that individuals charged with such offences pursue the course of Drug Diversion rather than to merely plead guilty to an offence even if they are offered an absolute discharge or conditional discharge. Although a “discharge” is viewed as the equivalent of no criminal record in Canada, such a disposition may be a major impediment to travel in the United States. Client S. pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana in 1986 and received an “absolute discharge”. At that time, it was viewed as an excellent result due to the quantity of marijuana in his possession and the fact that he may have been driving his motor vehicle while smoking marijuana.
Since 1986, M. has had to apply for a formal waiver every time he travels to the United States. The waiver application includes confirmation of employment and a letter from a medical practitioner attesting to the fact that S. is not a drug addict. To reiterate, the implications of even a “discharge” as a sentence for a drug offence may be serious.