Canadians with simple cannabis possession convictions can now apply for a pardon

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The Canadian federal government introduced Bill C93 earlier this week which allows Canadians with simple cannabis possession convictions to apply for expedited pardons at no cost.

Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti said while speaking in Montreal on Thursday that the measures of the bill will take effect immediately.

“Instead of waiting five years and paying a parole board $631, applicants will no longer have to wait a single minute and will not owe the parole board a single cent,” said Federal Justice Minister David Lametti.

“We know that this is particularly significant for many minority communities, including black and Indigenous Canadians who have been disproportionately affected by the enforcement of cannabis laws.”

Simple possession is defined as possession under 30 grams, and normally the waiting period to apply for a pardon after a conviction is between 5 and 10 years. Thanks to the new law, even people with outstanding fines or victim surcharges which typically must be paid before applying for a record suspension, are allowed to apply.

“This helps them access employment and educational opportunities and to reintegrate into society,” states a web page for Public Safety Canada.

Lametti told sources that unfortunately the new law does not excuse anyone still serving a sentence for a cannabis conviction.

“To my understanding no one is actually sitting in jail as a result of a conviction for possession of cannabis but some Canadians might still have community service obligations or other requirements connected to a conviction,” he said.

Though the new law is certainly a step in the right direction of bringing justice to those who have been negatively affected by draconian cannabis laws, not everyone is thrilled.

Toronto-based cannabis advocate and lawyer Jack Lloyd told sources that if the federal government really wanted to address the “historical injustices” and help minorities then they should apologize publicly and acknowledge that it was wrong to convict people of simple possession in the first place.

“All of the stigma associated with cannabis prohibition continues,” said Lloyd. “If their goal was to help [minorities], an expungement is how you do that. Not this tiny step.”

Canadian officials also warn that Canadians with previous convictions, even if pardoned, may still have trouble with travelling across the border.

“Any foreign country, including the United States, may have documented previous interactions with individuals, which may include an individual’s Canadian criminal conviction information prior to a pardon being granted,” says the Health Canada website. “When required by foreign border officials, these individuals will be able to provide the required documentation to demonstrate that their conviction has been pardoned.”

Over the course of the last year since Canada legalized cannabis, there has been tension between the two countries with some people receiving bans from entering the United States for being involved in the cannabis industry or for having previously consumed cannabis. Though these instances are rare, it can happen and people with previous conviction may be more at risk.

“Any sovereign country has the right to control who goes into their country,” said Lametti. “That is in a sense beyond our control.”


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