The marijuana legalization issue has a lot of support among Canadians. Now, new research shows almost half support pardoning marijuana possession charges. However, that doesn’t mean it will happen.
The survey was conducted by Forum Research. According to CTV News, 49 per cent said they agreed that previous convictions should be pardoned. They also said current sentences should be ended with marijuana legalization. Thirty-five per cent disagreed. The rest were undecided.
Among those calling for change are the New Democrat Party and the CD Howe Institute. The CD Howe Institute is a Canadian think tank focused on economics and public policy.
In the case of the NDP, the arguments are compassionate. Criminal records hold people back from employment and travel. In the case of the CD Howe Institute, the arguments are economic. Withdrawing or pardoning charges frees up resources. These can then be used in other areas of marijuana legalization policy.
In addition, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police once requested a ticketing system rather than arrests in order to free up policing resources.
Marijuana legalization versus decriminalization
The Liberal government has said their task force would look at pardons. However, they are not willing to decriminalize marijuana. Their motto is legalization and regulation.
In 2014, 24,540 people were charged in marijuana-related incidents. The police continue to enforce possession laws. In fact, Bill Blair is the head of the task force on pot reform. He has stated in interviews that police are still expected to uphold the laws around possession. One report says that cops in Canada deal with possession incidents every nine minutes. That’s a lot of new records going on the books.
The current wait time to remove a summary conviction from a criminal record is five years. This means some people convicted today won’t be eligible for a Record Suspension (pardon) until 2021. In the meantime, pot could be legalized in 2017.
While it’s possible that the government could call for pardons, it’s unlikely. The government would need to address the fact that some people may have plea bargained a possession charge when they were really involved in more serious trafficking. As well, there is no mechanism in place for a general blanket pardon in Canada.
It’s more likely that the government would refer those wanting a pardon to the existing Record Suspension system. This involves submitting a variety of police checks, court documents and personal statements to demonstrate that one has been of good character since the charges were laid.
The government has also promised a review of the Record Suspension system. However, the marijuana task force is obviously a higher priority.
We’ll have to wait to see if the government will streamline pardons for the possession of marijuana. For now, it doesn’t look like records will be going up in smoke.
If you are ready to apply for a Record Suspension or US Waiver, contact us today for a free consultation. If you would like to see the Canadian government act now to make pardons fairer and more accessible for the average citizen, sign our petition at Change.org.