No plans for pardons in Canada's marijuana legalization bill
The government has presented its recreational marijuana legalization bill and many are disappointed that there is no plan to pardon past offences.
While the legislation legalizes cannabis, its focus is on regulation rather than “decriminalization.” This means, not only will people convicted of even small amounts of possession continue to have records, those who run afoul of the new legislation may be subjected to stronger penalties.
Another issue is the sale of marijuana. Currently, marijuana is being sold openly by illegal dispensaries. If provinces do not incorporate existing dispensaries into their plans for retail, a police crackdown could occur with the goal of putting these establishments out of business. So far, no province has specifically said they plan to retail through existing dispensaries.
In other words, criminal records won’t be automatically expunged and, potentially, more records will be created.
Unfortunately, many of those charged with marijuana offences tend to be young. A marijuana conviction can result in a criminal record which can hinder opportunities such as:
- Post-secondary education
- Internships and Practicums
Marijuana offences can be either summary or indictable. A charge of possession of less than 30 grams is always summary. However, growing, selling, sharing or having more than that amount could be indictable.
Why does summary or indictable matter?
In 2012, the Government of Canada made major changes to the Criminal Records Act that caused Canadians to experience the negative effects of a criminal record for much longer.
The waiting period to pardon a summary offence was changed from three years to five. The period to clear an indictable offence was changed from five years to 10.
The Government of Canada is considering reforms to this program. However, they have not specified if they are going to roll back the program to its pre-2012 state, which involved waiting periods of three to five years.
Some waiting period is reasonable, as the government wants to ensure the person plans to live a law-abiding lifestyle. However, the current time period makes it difficult, if not impossible for people to get back on their feet.
Please consider signing our petition to help people with criminal records get back on track through pardons. We want pardons to be free and accessible. We are asking the government to return the wait period to three and five years as soon as possible.