Canada Will Forgive Minor Cannabis Charges… But Not Entirely…

Canada Will Forgive Minor Cannabis Charges As Legalization Takes Effect

As of 12:00 am last night, cannabis has become legal in Canada. The end of cannabis prohibition marks a momentous occasion for the nation. The Trudeau Administration now has the opportunity to demonstrate how lucrative the legal cannabis industry can be when paired up with a sensible drug policy. The federal government has finally taken an ambitious and heartwarming step in the right direction. The administration recently announced that Canada will forgive minor cannabis charges… But not entirely. Let’s investigate what amnesty for marijuana possession charges really means.

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Canada Will Forgive Minor Cannabis Charges, A Sensible Drug Policy

Before legalization, Justin Trudeau was notably vague on the topic of whether or not Canada will forgive minor cannabis charges. In one statement the Prime Minister hinted that minor drug offenders might receive amnesty for marijuana possession charges. However, nothing definitive was proposed and no legislation was tabled.

Earlier today, however, the Federal Liberals placated concerned Canadian’s fears. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced that Canada will forgive minor cannabis charges, so long as they are related to possession. Another stipulation for these pardons is that applicants must have completed their jail time. This is undoubtedly a disappointment for those currently serving sentences on marijuana possession charges.

Goodale explained that providing amnesty for marijuana possession charges will undoubtedly enhance the lives of Canadians in a post-legalization world.

“As a general principle, removing the stigma of a criminal record for people who have served their sentence and then have shown themselves to be law-abiding citizens enhances public safety for all Canadians.”
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What are the Effects of Amnesty for Marijuana Possession Charges?

Forgiveness for weed arrests
There are a few notable things that pardoning cannabis charges will effect

The fact that Canada will forgive minor cannabis charges will have significant consequences in the lives of former convicts. In addition to facing the stigma associated with a criminal record, ex-cons are restricted from many employment opportunities, thus debilitating them economically. Travel is also an issue, as crossing international borders might not be possible with a criminal charge on one’s record. This is doubly so if one wishes to visit a nation with repressive drug laws.

Presumably, this bill still needs to be drafted as of this article. After this, the lengthy but essential democratic process must be allowed to properly take its course. Despite these setbacks, the Trudeau government believes Canada could see its cannabis convicts forgiven as early as later this year. This is undoubtedly welcome news, however, some very pertinent concerns have arisen regarding the specifics of the proposed bill.

Does the Bill Go Far Enough?

While Canada giving some form of amnesty for marijuana possession charges is welcome news, the bill has a few addendums that might leave a sour taste in one’s mouth.

Curiously, not all possession charges will be applicable for forgiveness under this new legislation. In accordance with Bill C-45, Canadians will only be allowed to carry 30 grams of cannabis on them at any given time. This amount will serve as sort of a retroactive high water mark for forgiveness. In short, Canadians who were convicted of possessing over 30 grams need not apply.

Prior to legalization, Justin Trudeau was adamant on the topic of amnesty for trafficking convictions.

“If somebody is convicted of drug trafficking already, I don’t think they’re going to be rewarded with an opportunity to sell it legally. We’re going to do criminal background checks and make sure that this is being done responsibly.”
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Canada will forgive minor cannabis charges and continue to shun ex-criminals guilty of larger offenses; this is evidence that the Trudeau Administration does not completely grasp the concept of legalization.

While trafficking charges and larger possession charges are not to be taken with a grain of salt, these crimes would not have been committed in the first place had cannabis been legal. Possession, trafficking, and drug dealing, all emerged from a failed system of drug prohibition. Getting rid of only the most minor charges is simply a half measure that maintains many of the scars left behind by marijuana prohibition.

Murray Rankin expunge cannabis charges
Murray Rankin is in favor of expunging cannabis charges rather than just granting pardons (image via Alaska Highway News)

Speaking of half-measures, giving amnesty for marijuana possession charges might not mean exactly what you think. What the Trudeau Administration has proposed, is granting pardons to minor cannabis offenders. Essentially, a pardon involves sealing a criminal case while simultaneously granting a sort of nominal forgiveness to an ex-con. However, the charge still remains on this individual’s record, which will make for some very awkward interactions with US border officials.

NDP MP, Murray Rankin, plans to take this policy one step further. The MP tabled a private member’s bill earlier this month that proposed expunging marijuana-related offenses as an alternative to simply granting pardons. The difference between these two options is more than just semantic. The act of expunging involves erasing one’s criminal record entirely as if the crime never existed in the first place. This would go a lot further in undoing the harm caused by cannabis prohibition. Expunging also makes a clear political statement to the international community that the legalization of cannabis in Canada was an abject failure.

Hopefully, the Trudeau Administration will be open to amending their ideas of what giving amnesty for marijuana possession charges truly means. As we enter a new era of sensible drug policy, Canada’s actions might become a blueprint for cannabis hopefuls across the globe such as South Africa, Mexico, and Thailand. Thus Canada must choose its course of action with extreme caution.

Happy legalization day from Stefan at Puff Puff Post!

By: Stefan Hosko
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