Federal Government Will Allow Pardons for Cannabis Possession, Minister Says
As of Wednesday, October 17, 2018, cannabis has been legalized across Canada. In Ontario, you can now purchase the product through the online Ontario Cannabis Store, with privately operated brick and mortar stores expected sometime in April 2019.
But what happens to those who were caught with possession of cannabis and saddled with past pot convictions on their records? The federal government attempted to address that matter in a press conference on Parliament Hill today.
Federal Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale was joined by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Border Security Minister Bill Blair in outlining various changes to existing laws and regulations concerning cannabis.
Today our Government is delivering on our promise to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to #cannabis in order to keep it out of the hands of youth, and profits away from criminals #cdnpoli #CannabisAct pic.twitter.com/akELCfCKR2— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) October 17, 2018
One of which was what to do with people with criminal records due to possession.
Goodale announced that people who have prior records for possession of cannabis “should be allowed to shed the stigma,” adding that future legislation will be introduced which will allow these people to apply for a pardon as long as they have completed their sentence, without a further waiting period or fee.
“This is not a singular event, like flipping a switch; it is a process,” Goodale said, adding that it is “good public policy to remove roadblocks (such as simple possession) to the successful rehabilitation of previous offenders.”
Allowing the pardons would allow people previously convicted of possession access to necessities such as housing, job opportunities and even the ability to volunteer for a charity in one’s local community, the minister concluded.
But according to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the federal government must delete the criminal records for indigenous and racialized people who were charged with possession:
And NDP MP Murray Rankin also opined on the government’s decision, highlighting his private members bill to do exactly what Singh suggested.
My bill proposes the expungement of cannabis convictions, while the Libs are offering a pardon process. I'm happy they want to make it expedited & free, but Cdns w/ pardons still have to check that 'convicted of criminal offence' box on job & housing applications. That's not ok.— Murray Rankin MP (@MurrayRankin) October 17, 2018
The federal Conservatives also were not as pleased, citing a lack of more information on the new law.
“The Trudeau government recently concluded that there was no concrete way to determine if someone is driving while high,” said Tory MP Marilyn Gladu at a press conference in Ottawa.
“How will this affect the workplace, Indigenous peoples and crossing the border to the United States? This is a serious failure of leadership on Trudeau’s part as he hands responsibility off to others. Conservatives will always be accountable for the safety of Canadians.”
In response to Goodale’s proposed future legislation to grant pardons for those previously convicted of possession, Gladu said the government should look at things on a case by case basis, because in some cases the possession charge was the one that stuck. She also said even if a pardon is granted in Canada, the person would need to get that same pardon in place in a U.S court if they are travelling across the border.
Would you like to see people previously convicted of pot possession get a pardon, once they’ve served their sentence, or see those records deleted as Singh suggested?
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