It is not necessary to actually sell drugs in order to be charged with drug trafficking. The definition of trafficking in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act includes actions such as selling, administering, transferring or giving away illegal drugs, or selling authorizations to obtain illegal drugs such as prescription pads. Even offering to do any of these things is considered trafficking.
In addition, to the charge of drug trafficking, possession of drugs can, under some circumstances lead to the charge of ‘possession for the purpose of trafficking.’ To determine if the accused did intend to sell or otherwise transfer illegal drugs, the courts will look at a number of factors including the amount of drugs in question, unexplained cash or monetary gain, the absence or presence of drug paraphernalia and even the drug use habits of the accused. There can be a huge mountain of complicated evidence used to prove or disprove intent to traffic and you should speak with a lawyer who can help gather and explain what evidence can be used to show that you simply possessed the drugs in question.
The punishments for drug trafficking are much more severe than for possession or use of illegal drugs. While the maximum penalty for a drug possession charge is seven years in prison, a conviction of trafficking in a Schedule I drug like cocaine or meth or a Schedule II drug like marijuana can lead to a sentence of life imprisonment. Although it is difficult to tell what punishment the court will find appropriate, the available sentence ranges are the same whether the conviction is for actual trafficking in a drug or just possession with intent to traffic.
Besides a criminal sentence, there are other consequences of a conviction of drug trafficking or possession with intent to traffic. You will have a criminal record, which can make getting a job or professional license more difficult. There may be restrictions on your ability to travel in and out of the country or prohibitions on relocating to other countries such as the United States.
Every case of drug trafficking is different and while your friend may have gotten off easy for a particular offence, that does not mean that you will be so lucky. With the stakes so high, you should consult with an experienced lawyer who can provide more thorough advice after gathering and analyzing the facts of your case.