Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy: Substance controls

How substance controls in Canada fit into the strategy.

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About substance controls in Canada

There are various laws and regulations that control access to the substances included in the strategy, which:

For example, controlled substances like opioids have legitimate uses in medicine, but can also cause serious harm if used inappropriately. Substance use related harms occur when substances are used in a manner, situation, amount, or frequency that harms the person using the substance or those around them. The illegal production and sale of controlled substances is linked with serious harm to public health and public safety.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its regulations apply to controlled substances and precursor chemicals (chemicals used to make controlled substances). This federal law applies to the following activities with controlled substances:

 Controlled substances are substances that:

The Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework for controlling cannabis:

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act regulates how tobacco and vaping products are:

The Food and Drugs Act relates to food, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics.

Canada also has legal obligations under 3 international drug control conventions :

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How substance controls fit into the strategy

The strategy supports substance controls through several activities. These include:

Providing law enforcement and public health officials with new tools to respond to the overdose crisis

Law enforcement and public health officials interact with people who use substances every day. As first responders, they have a crucial role to play in supporting a public health approach to substance use.

We’re supporting law enforcement by offering training to raise awareness of drug stigma. We’re also piloting an overdose monitoring platform that will support:

Addressing the role of organized crime in the illegal drug market

As part of the strategy, we’re working with law and border enforcement to address the role of organized crime in the production, diversion and trafficking of toxic illegal drugs. Some examples include:

Learn more:

Drug Analysis Service

Diverting people away from the criminal justice system towards health and social services

We support policies and approaches that divert people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system and towards health and social services.

For example, we granted British Columbia a 3-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Under this exemption, adults aged 18 and over won’t be criminally charged for possessing up to 2.5 grams of certain illegal drugs for personal use. The exemption will last between January 31, 2023, and January 31, 2026. We’re also considering future exemption requests from other jurisdictions related to personal possession.

Some other examples include:

We introduced Bill C-5, which  repealed mandatory minimum penalties for all drug offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It also requires police and prosecutors to consider diverting people who commit simple drug possession offences toward health and social services.

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Facilitating access to controlled substances for scientific and medical purposes

We facilitate the use of controlled substances with appropriate controls in place:

For example, certain health care practitioners or researchers can request access to controlled substances to treat patients with serious or life-threatening conditions as part of a clinical research study.

Exemptions from provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Advancing a coordinated global approach to substance use related harms and the illegal drug supply

We participate in international forums to coordinate and strengthen our approach to substance use related harms and the illegal drug supply with other countries. This global approach balances public health and public safety through information sharing and joint actions that focus on:

Key international forums include:

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