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Canadian Official Says Talks About Clearing Pot Charges Are “Fairly Complex”

Canadian Official Says Talks About Clearing Pot Charges Are “Fairly Complex”

Dina Al-Shibeeb
blair2 20x15 - Canadian Official Says Talks About Clearing Pot Charges Are “Fairly Complex”

Bill Blair, the federal MP tasked with leading Canada’s marijuana legalization, said talks about clearing pot charges are “fairly complex” during a town meeting on Tuesday in Toronto.

There are about half a million Canadians, who have pot charges on their records. But as the country readies to make recreational marijuana fully legal, there are no imminent plans in sight to revoke convictions at least the petty ones.

“Until we replace the [Control Substance Act] law with a comprehensive system of cannabis control, I would simply urge all Canadians to obey the law,” Blair said, continuing by saying “cannabis is not a benign substance, so we have a system of control, which we can improve.

But until we complete the work of appealing the existing law.”

Blair said it is only possible once the current law is repealed, and replaced with a “regulatory system.”

“The Prime Minister [Justin Trudeau] made it very clear, there will be an opportunity to talk about the existing records of people may have,” he said.   

“It is a fairly complex discussion, the prime minister is giving every indication to engage in this conversation.”

He reiterated, “but [this] can only take place after the existing laws have been repealed and no longer the law.”

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Bill Blair answering questions.

Disproportionate Arrests 

The Toronto Star reported last year that more than 27,000 people in Toronto were arrested for possessing marijuana from 2003 to 2013, nearly one-quarter of them were aged 12 to 18.

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Like the race issue in the United States, marijuana charges in Canada are also disproportionate with Black and Indigenous Canadians being more targeted.

In the Toronto Star report, 34 percent of the charges were against Black people, even though Toronto’s Black population was around 8 percent.

Blair said that the government of Canada has already “recognized the disparity” regarding “poor, racialized and Indigenous communities.”

He said “poverty is disproportionate in our society,” says the government is working to alleviate this situation.

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