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Sorry, Weed Possession Is Going to Stay on Your Criminal Record

Canada's government says it has no plans for mass pardons under its new weed legalization bill.
Photo via Flickr user daddyboskeazy

When Canada's plans for legalizing and regulating cannabis came through last week, you might have wondered what's going to happen to all those people in the country who are incarcerated or have a criminal record for weed-related charges. So far, it doesn't look good.

A blanket pardon would seem to be one option regarding those who have a record for simple possession, but according to Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, that's not something the Trudeau government is considering.


"That's not an item that's on the agenda at the moment," Goodale said in an interview last week.

The plans for legal weed in Canada—slated to go into effect mid-2018—include allowance for those 18 and older to possess up to 30 grams of the substance on their person in public. However, the plans also include unexpectedly tight restrictions, such as the possibility of those who give or sell cannabis to those under 18 being subject to up to 14 years in jail if convicted.

C.D. Howe Institute, a public policy research institute, has recommended the Canadian government consider pardoning those convicted of marijuana possession and dropping any outstanding charges in order to "save considerable government resources."

Goodale said that there's already a process in place for Canadians seeking a pardon—which doesn't eliminate a criminal record—who've been convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana five years following the completion of their sentence.

To no avail, the NDP party has already called for the government to decriminalize weed while the impending legalization and regulation framework sits in queue. But for now, Canada will continue to uphold its current prohibition laws surrounding cannabis. That means more people will be arrested in the next year, more dispensaries busted, more people sent to jail—all over weed.

"It is important to note that as the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected," Goodale said. "This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all."

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