How Does Canada Grant Cannabis Pardons After Legalisation?

2nd December 2019

With a slowly increasing number of jurisdictions legalising recreational use of Cannabis, a major concern is the process of granting pardons for Cannabis-related crimes prior to legalisation. Many of these jurisdictions, like Canada, have vowed to permit pardons to some of those individuals. 

Canada’s Liberal government passed the legislation four months ago, in order to grant the expedited pardons. However, the protection does have some limits. Namely, only those with a single charge of simple Cannabis possession are eligible for pardons. Those with multiple charges are disqualified.

Despite the most recent legislation making the process simpler and cheaper, it has drawn criticism for the low numbers of applicants currently recorded. According to Public Safety Canada, there have only been 234 applications for the pardon, to date. Of these, 118 people have successfully had their records cleared.

Sen. Kim Pate, an advocate of prisoners and criminal justice, said:

“…the people who are eligible, if they know about it, they’re choosing not to apply … either because it’s historical and they didn’t want to go back and revisit that, or there were still costs involved in applying for this process.”

The legislation – bill C-93 – successfully eliminated the $631 application fee and removed the five-to-10-year waiting period for the filing of applications. However, Pate claims that getting fingerprints and retrieving the needed documents can still cost applicants hundred of dollars.

To get around this, Sen. Pate has announced that she plans to reintroduce legislation which would amend the Criminal Records Act. The amendment would allow some convictions to expire, effectively removing Cannabis possession convictions automatically.

Sen. Pate hopes to table the bill early next year and hopes to win the support of the Liberal government.

In response to the criticism, the Parole Board of Canada has claimed that there is no reliable data on the number of Canadians who are eligible for Cannabis charge pardons. They also claim that it sent letters to around 2,000 police and justice partners. It also sent hundreds more letters to outreach organisations to raise awareness about the new Cannabis record suspensions.

Following legalisation on October 17th 2018, Canada introduced so-called ‘Cannabis 2.0‘ exactly one year later. The second phase of legalisation permits the sale of Cannabis edibles, topicals, and extracts.

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