We all know someone who had a previous pot charge and he or she was not able to travel to the United States, but more importantly had a criminal record with just a simple pot possession from the past.
The new law allows people who were only convicted of a crime of simple possession, which is possession of under 30 grams – to have their record suspended, free of charge. The normal fee is $631 and before the 5 – 10 year wait period after a conviction usually required before applying for a pardon. People can apply even if they have outstanding fines or victim surcharges, which typically have to be paid proper to a record suspension application.
When someone’s record is suspended, it’s transferred within the Nation Repository of Criminal Records that’s found through the Canadian Police Information Centre to no longer show that someone has an existing criminal record. Non-Canadians and non-residents who have simple possession charges are eligible to apply through the new process.
For a successful application, someone with only a simple possession conviction must prove that it was only for cannabis and not other types of illegal drugs. Through the new program, applicants don’t need to submit court documents to the Parole Board of Canada as long as the criminal record check or police records show their conviction was only for cannabis possession. The board also won’t be able to revoke the pardon on the basis of bad behaviour.
Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair estimated that around 70-80,000 Canadians would be eligible for the pot pardon process. Some government pundits believe that there could be more than 250,000 people in Canada who have some-kind of cannabis possession conviction on their criminal record.
The Trudeau government legalized recreational cannabis almost a year ago. The Liberals promise to legalize the drug was a highly publicized part of their 2015 campaign, though the party never promised to wipe the records clean of people who had criminal records for possession, instead shifting their focus to offering pardons only after legalization.
The Liberals have been criticized by the NDP and some social activist groups, who have argued for full expungement, which is the action of fully destroying someone’s records, for simple cannabis possession charges. Some legal activists have argued that by only offering a pardon, someone who was convicted for cannabis possession may still not be able to enter the United States, or other jurisdictions, because even after someone’s record is moved within CPIC’s database when it’s suspended, border officials may have their own previously recorded data.
A pardon does not guarantee a person entry or visa privileges to another country because foreign jurisdictions are not bound by Canadian laws.
A streamlined application process will soon be published on the Parole Board of Canada’s website. The toll-free number for assistance is 1-800-874-2652, give this toll-free number a call if you have any enquires or questions related to a pot charge.
These pardons may not be the entire answer to a clean record moving forward, but its definitely a step in the right direction.