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Marijuana legalization in Canada will probably not wipe existing convictions from police databases. Some highlights of the legislation include:

  • Allowed possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana for all people 18 and older (30 grams is equivalent to a summary conviction currently)
  • Permitted to grow up to four plants or purchase from a licensed dispensary
  • Tougher penalties for those who sell to minors or drive under the influence
  • Tourists will not be able to bring marijuana into the country, but they can use it while visiting Canada
  • Selling marijuana without a licence will continue to be a criminal offence
  • Marijuana legalization legislation may be in place by July 1, 2018

Currently, many Canadians lose privileges such as travel to the US, employment, and career advancement due to charges of simple possession. Police continue to enforce prohibition, which means new records are being created every day. If you have a record, you may be wondering how the impending marijuana legalization bill will affect you.

Will marijuana legalization justify pardons?

When asked about criminal record pardons at a forum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in broad terms about “fixing past wrongs,” but did not come out and say that he was considering pardons. Should the government ever consider pardons for marijuana convictions, they likely will not extend it to trafficking. In fact, Trudeau suggested that anyone who has been working in today’s illegal marijuana dispensary industry, may not be able to obtain a licence to sell it legally next year.

Unfortunately, as is stands, the legalization of recreational marijuana does not include automatic pardons for past convictions. The Public Safety Ministry does not have blanket amnesty on their agenda.

Although legal obstacles prevail, individuals with possession-related records may receive less social sanction than previously. It is possible that current and prospective employers will overlook your past conviction. This may not always be the case. Your record could still put you at a disadvantage in the job market. When an employer conducts an initial criminal record check, they will not see that you were convicted of possession. They will simply see that you have a record. In order to obtain details, they need to ask you to get your fingerprints taken. Before this happens, you may want to reveal that you have a record and that it was for marijuana possession.

Also, be advised that your record would still be available to US and Canadian border officers. The US border officers will still regard marijuana possession as a crime of moral turpitude.

What Can You Do?

Obtain A Travel Waiver

Depending on circumstances, having a crime of moral turpitude on your record may restrict your travel. Applying for a travel waiver becomes a safer bet than hoping your destination country does not check for past convictions or misdemeanors.

US entry waivers are issued for six months to five years. Usually you will receive a longer waiver on your second or third application, but you will have to keep renewing your waiver for as long as you want to keep visiting the United States.

Obtain A Record Suspension

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale referred Canadians to the established Record Suspension process as a means of dealing with their criminal records. In other words, there is no special treatment for people with records.

The possession of a small amount of marijuana (up to 30g) normally constitutes a summary offence. This means that you only have to wait five years to apply for a Record Suspension.

Possession of larger amounts could result in a trafficking charge, usually deemed an indictable offence. Depending on the circumstances, most records of criminal conviction become eligible for suspension after a waiting period of 10 years.

Keep in mind, that Canadian Record Suspensions are not recognized by the US government. A Record Suspension will not allow you to enter the United States. However, it lifts many other restrictions in day-to-day life. It allows you to seek job opportunities and career advancement without fear of facing disqualification over past convictions.

It’s important not to overestimate the effect that the government’s legalization plans will have on an existing record. Remember that the government is only legalizing simple possession and hasn’t even committed to pardoning this offence. If you are eligible for a Record Suspension we recommend starting today, so that you don’t lose out on opportunities. Contact us for a free consultation if you want to seal your criminal record today at 1-866-972-7366.