Appendix B Legal and Illegal Sources and Distribution of Drugs
An understanding of the mechanisms and channels by which psycho-tropic substances reach their ultimate consumers is essential to developing a comprehensive perception of drug use in Canada. The availability of drugs is a crucial factor in explaining the extent and patterns of Canadian drug use, and this availability is a function of the various processes whereby drugs are licitly and illicitly distributed. For descriptive purposes, our discussion of these distribution processes is divided into drug types and, within each drug classification, by three major rubrics: 1) legal sources and legal distribution, 2) legal sources and illegal distribution, and 3) illegal sources and illegal distribution.
The legal distribution of drugs in Canada is governed by a complex mosaic of federal and provincial statutes and regulations. These laws are described in some detail in the following drug-by-drug discussions, but it is useful to mention them here so as to provide an outline of the legal parameters of the distribution system.
The production, distribution and administration of the opiate narcotic drugs, cannabis and cocaine are governed by the Narcotic Control Act and the Narcotic Control Regulations. The distribution of all other drugs requiring prescriptions—and many which do not—is controlled by the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations; this Act also prohibits the distribution of certain psychotropic substances (such as most hallucinogens) except for scientific purposes. Drugs which are considered secret formula, non-pharmacopoeia) medicines (such as some cough medicines and laxatives) are regulated by the Proprietary or Patent Medicine Act and various provincial regulations. Alcohol and tobacco manufacture and importation are regulated by the Excise Act federally, and by various provincial statutes as regards provincial distribution and taxation. Apart from packaging and labelling requirements, there is no significant controlling legislation on the distribution of volatile solvents and gases.
The illegal distribution of psychotropic substances may involve legally produced drugs which have been diverted from their licit channels, or illegally imported or manufactured drugs. In either case, some violation of at least one of the above-mentioned statutes will have occurred. Illegal drug distribution is often as highly sophisticated and complex an economic activity as the licit pharmaceutical industry itself. This illegal enterprise can generally be divided into three major marketing levels. The top level is composed of a very small number of 'manufacturers' (as is the case with 'speed' and most hallucinogens) and 'importers' (such as with heroin and cannabis). These individuals sell their drugs to 'distributors', who are essentially wholesale agents who buy in large quantities and sell in smaller lots to the third illicit distribution level: 'dealers'. It is the dealers who sell the bulk of illegal drugs to their ultimate consumers. It should be recognized, however, that each of these levels may have many sub-levels, and that these different distribution roles may, on occasion, be performed by the same person, especially when the quantities involved are relatively small Finally, it should be noted that these three levels of illicit distribution reflect a hierarchical structuring with certain crucial properties: the greatest profits accrue to those at the top of the hierarchy; the greatest risks of arrest are at the bottom of the hierarchy; and, consequently, most of those involved in illicit trafficking are motivated to improve their position in the distribution structure.