With marijuana use becoming legal in Canada this fall, criminal convictions for the simple possession of cannabis should be expunged, says the Member of Parliament for the South Okanagan – West Kootenay riding.
“Since these people were never convicted of serious crimes, including dealing, and their actions are now considered completely legal, they should receive pardons so that they can apply for jobs and volunteer positions without facing prohibitions based on their past records,” writes Richard Cannings in a weekly column to constituents.
“This includes 15,000 charged in 2016 alone.”
His comments echo the position taken by his New Democrat peers, several of whom have also raised the legal relief in the House of Commons and beyond.
New Democrat MP Don Davies, for example, attempted to pass a motion calling on the government to immediately pardon Canadians convicted of simple possession. The motion was defeated when it didn’t have the necessary unanimous consent.
“We’ve been asking this the last couple of years, considering it was obvious legalization was going to happen,” said Mr. Cannings during a stop in Jasper while travelling home with his wife by train. “We were wondering why the government was still arresting people for possession and why they weren’t giving pardons.”
He added he was pleased to see the Liberal government was saying “well, I guess we can start thinking about it now.”
The pardons, Mr. Cannings was quick to point out, should be issued for convictions for actions that would be legal come October 17.
“The line is simple possession charges, but not the trafficking,” he explained. “We don’t want to pardon people who were involved in large-scale grow-ups and trafficking and all that.
“But if you got busted for having a joint on the sidewalk, that’s the kind of thing that’s legal now.”
According to PressProgress.ca, “as of 2014, at least 500,000 Canadians are estimated to carry criminal records on cannabis possession charges.”
As of October 17, subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, adults who are 18 years of age or older will be able legally to:
- possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public;
- share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults;
- buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer;
- grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use;
- make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.