Canada’s Legalization Bill Doesn’t Forgive Past Cannabis Convictions

Canada’s Legalization Bill Doesn’t Forgive Past Cannabis Convictions

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Just a month ago Canada was announcing legislation that would end cannabis prohibition for the entire country – a promise that Prime Minister Trudeau made during his campaign – and shortly after the bill was introduced. Upon closer look at the bill that will be making its way through Canadian legislature it was noticed that it does not provide any sort of pardon for those who already have been convicted of cannabis possession, which will soon be legal.

In fact, when questioned about the issue, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that isn’t really a concern of theirs right now. Rather, they wanted to remind people that the current laws will continue to be enforced until the time comes when legislation is passed and implemented sometime in 2018. It doesn’t appear that there is much concern about whether or not it is right to continue to arrest and jail people over something that is soon-to-be legal, instead just the continued asking of people to continue to respect current laws.

“It is important to note that as the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected,” Goodale told a news conference last Thursday.

It has been suggested more than once that decriminalization appears to be an obvious way to transition from illegal to legal without continuing to clog up the justice department with nonviolent offenders who were caught with a small amount of cannabis. The NPD called for immediate decriminalization, explaining that it would prevent young people from ending up with a record that would follow them through their entire lives and could potentially cause issues with finding employment and housing and such.

Similarly, the C.D. Howe Institute has recommended that the government pardon those who are convicted – as well as drop any pending charges – for possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis. They suggest that dropping pending charges would free up law enforcement resources that will be needed once legalization takes place due to a potential increase in the number of people consuming cannabis.

“This discussion suggests that dropping charges against individuals for illegal possession who have no other Criminal Code convictions or charges, would save considerable government resources without other significant offsetting adverse spillovers,” it said.

The Public Safety Minister did note that possession of 30 grams or less is already a charge that is allowed to apply for a pardon – they just have to wait until 5 years after they have completed their sentence for it to be considered. There is no guarantee that a pardon would be given, but there is a process for those who are willing to wait – but that doesn’t mean that nothing should be done in the future to help those with convictions to avoid continued issues for a substance that will be legal.

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