Last week, the federal government announced its plan to grant fast, free pardons for cannabis possession convictions.
Outlined in Bill C-93, this would amend the Criminal Records Act (CRA) and allow Canadians who have been previously convicted only of simple cannabis possession to apply for a pardon (also known as a record suspension) with no application fee or wait period, once their sentence has been served.
Under the current law, a person must wait 5-10 years in order to seek a pardon and pay a fee of $631. Until the Cannabis Act came into effect last October, simple possession of the drug was punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and 6 months in jail.
It is not yet clear, but it is believed that these pardons will be limited to convictions for under 30 grams of cannabis.
Government says the bill aims to break down barriers to employment, housing, or travel and reduce stigma for Canadians with a criminal record for cannabis – especially visible minority communities, Indigenous communities, and people in vulnerable neighbourhoods.
The new bill could become law this summer. The CBC reports approximately 400,000 people have this conviction and 80,000 would be eligible for the pardon program.
The NDP and legal experts have criticized the move, believing expunging criminal records is the way to go. The Liberals have made it clear that expungement is only an “extraordinary measure” reserved for specific cases.