Trafficking in a controlled substances means a lot more than selling it for profit.  What does this mean for Rob Ford?

trafficking drugs rob fordIn light of the breaking news that is happening with Rob Ford and the videos that appear to be circulating, I thought it would be appropriate to point out a legal fact that few people appreciate: trafficking drugs means more than selling it.

The governing legislation in Canada is the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  Under the definitions in section 2, it reads:

traffic means, in respect of a substance included in any of Schedules I to IV,

  • (a) to sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver the substance,

  • (b) to sell an authorization to obtain the substance, or

  • (cto offer to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b),

otherwise than under the authority of the regulations.

Most people assume that trafficking is just about selling.  However, under this definition, it also includes sharing it, even among friends.

What does this mean for Rob Ford if the video surfaces to police?

It is difficult to say exactly what this means for the video that appears to show Rob Ford sharing a pipe with an illicit substance in it.  Once greater detail is known, it will be easier to comment from a legal point of view.  For time time being we can assume a few things:

  1. If the video shows Rob Ford passing the pipe around, it meets the definition of trafficking in a Controlled Substance.
  2. All trafficking offences in Canada are treated relatively seriously.  The more serious the drug, the more serious it is treated.
  3. Determining the nature of the substance as a matter of evidence can be done in a number of way.  The easiest way would be if someone said what the substance is on the video.  Beyond that, a judge could infer from what is seen on the screen as to what kind of drug it is.  Or, if the judge could not be satisfied of what drug it is, a person could still be found guilty of trafficking of some illicit drugs if the circumstances lead to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.
  4. If the evidence (video) exists and is produceable, police cannot ignore such evidence of trafficking.   This is particularly so after all the controversy that has surrounding Rob Ford and the constant challenges of the Toronto Police of conspiracies and vendettas.  My view: Rob Ford will be charged in short order.
  5. Unlike simple possession (of marijuana and other minor drugs), trafficking is an indictable offence no matter what the substance and carries no limitation period.  Therefore, the Crown would not need to prove the timing of the video to meet the essential elements of the offence and obtain a conviction.

Sean Robichaud
Barrister & Solicitor, Criminal Law Specialist