Canada’s Public Safety Minister to table bill to launch free, expedited cannabis pardons

Canadians may soon be able to apply to have their cannabis convictions pardoned for free, but critics say pardons don’t go far enough.

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale tweeted on Wednesday that he would be giving notice to introduce a bill to “provide no-cost, expedited pardons for simple possession of cannabis.”

It could be introduced today (March 1).

The announcement prompted much discussion on social media, with some saying expungement of convictions – not pardons – should instead be offered.

The idea of expungement is one touted by the NDP.

Last December, the party urged the Liberals to erase criminal records for cannabis possession.

“Instead of supporting a bill I introduced to expunge—that is, to completely erase—criminal records for simple cannabis possession, the Liberal government only committed to introducing a bill sometime next year that would create an expedited, free pardon system,” said NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin last December after introducing a bill calling for expungement of such convictions.

“But I don’t see how they will be able to pass legislation they haven’t even created yet by the next election,” said Rankin at the time. “Cannabis has been legal for over a month, yet thousands of Canadians continue to struggle with the burdens of a criminal record. Why is this government insisting they wait even longer?”

According to a 2014 study titled Cannabis policy framework, Canada spends more than a billion dollars annually to enforce cannabis possession laws, “arresting about 60,000 Canadians for simple possession, [which is] nearly 3% of all arrests.”

It also found that at least 500,000 Canadians carry a criminal record for pot possession.

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