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Canada - Federal prosecutors told to avoid drug possession charges when possible in new directive

S.J.B.

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Federal prosecutors told to avoid drug possession charges when possible in new directive
Catharine Tunney
CBC
August 19th, 2020
Federal lawyers are being asked to avoid prosecuting simple drug possession cases unless major public safety concerns are at play — a move that comes amid a push on the federal government to reconsider decriminalization.

The directive, which was issued earlier this week, revises the Public Prosecution Service of Canada's (PPSC) approach to simple possession offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel is now asking her team of lawyers to focus on seeking charges only in "the most serious cases" and to otherwise ask for alternative measures, such as restorative justice and Indigenous approaches to divert simple possession cases away from the criminal justice system.

"For example, where the possession relates to a substance use disorder, prosecution should generally be avoided where the offender is enrolled in a drug treatment court program or a course of treatment provided under the supervision of a health professional," said PPSC spokesperson Nathalie Houle in an email.

...

Cases meriting charges could involve children or young people at risk, weapon, threats, acts of violence or isolated communities, according to the new directive.
Read the full story here.

Read the official prosecution guidelines here.
 

S.J.B.

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This is big news. It's important to note that in Canada, unlike in the United States, all criminal law is under the purview of the federal government. This means that all prosecutors in the country are now being directed not to charge anyone for simple possession unless one of these aggravating factors are met:
Public Prosecution Service of Canada said:
  • Conduct that poses a risk to the safety or well-being of children or young persons, including simple possession:
    • committed in the vicinity of places frequented by children or young persons;
    • committed by a person who is in a position of trust or statutory authority in respect
      of children or young persons;
  • Conduct that puts at risk the health or safety of others, including simple possession associated with impairment from substance use while preparing to drive, being responsible for supervision of a person driving, or driving a motor vehicle, operating machinery, possession of a weapon, or performing an activity posing a risk to public health or safety;
  • Conduct that poses a heightened risk to a community’s efforts to address consumption of controlled substances in accordance with its own community approaches. This concern is often present in relation to isolated or remote communities;
  • Conduct where there is a factually grounded basis to associate it with another offence contrary to the CDSA, including cultivation, production, harvesting, trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking, obtaining a prescription substance for the purpose of trafficking or the use of others, or importation of a controlled substance (for commercial gain) or another Criminal Code offence;
  • Conduct in breach of the rules of a regulated setting such as a custodial facility, jail or penitentiary;
  • Conduct committed by a peace officer or public officer, where it is relevant to the discharge of their duties.
I wouldn't quite call this de facto decriminalization, but it's definitely in the vicinity.
 
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SunriseChampion

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I wouldn't quite call this de facto decriminalization, but it's definitely in the vicinity.
Pretty well is, innit. At least as far as my day-to-day is concerned. This, coupled with our new lax alcohol law enforcements and the mushrooming of weed cafes and dispensaries and bottle shops (legit just a bar at a window where you walk up an buy liquor) as well as mushroom home delivery services has made this plagure-ridden summer quite the gem.

In our lifetime...trust me. :)
 

Alex_1991

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This is wonderful news. This eliminates most of the charges that are being laid against people so long as this directive is followed. I have a feeling it isn't going to be quite so cut and dry how prosecutors decide to twist peoples situations to fit into the criteria for criminality. It's a step in the right direction though.

I think the next 5-10 years are going to cultivate a whole new landscape for drug policy in Canada. The Harm Reduction, Safe Supply, and Decriminalization movements are all making strides in record time lately.
 
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