Pubdate: Mon, 22 May 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: A3


A clear majority of Canadians want the federal government to issue
pardons to fellow citizens who have a criminal record for marijuana
possession, a new poll has found.

The survey stands to buttress the call of marijuana activists, lawyers
and politicians who argue that the old criminal records will be a
legal anomaly once marijuana is legalized for recreational use by all

The federal government tabled legislation last month that aimed to
legalize marijuana by the middle of next year. Despite widespread
pressure, the government has refused to call on law enforcement to
stop charging marijuana users with simple possession while the
legislation goes through Parliament, or to promise an amnesty for past
convictions after the adoption of the new law.

According to a poll by The Globe and Mail/Nanos Research, however, 62
per cent of Canadians support or somewhat support the calls for a
pardon for every person with a criminal record for marijuana
possession. By comparison, 35 per cent of respondents said they oppose
or somewhat oppose the move.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a public forum organized by Vice
Canada last month that the current system was unfair, leaving
vulnerable and marginalized Canadians more likely to end up with
criminal records than those from privileged backgrounds. However, he
stopped short of promising an amnesty.

"We'll take steps to look at what we can do for those folks who have
criminal records for something that would no longer be criminal," Mr.
Trudeau said.

Last year, a C.D. Howe Institute report urged the government to pardon
everyone who has been convicted of marijuana possession, pointing out
even a minor possession conviction severely limits a person's ability
to work and travel.

"If you have a criminal conviction, it automatically disqualifies you
from a number of positions," said Anindya Sen, the University of
Waterloo economics professor who penned the report. "That's just
economic waste. You have people on social assistance who could
otherwise be employed and contribute to the economy."

Estimates vary on the number of people with simple possession
convictions in the country. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been
charged with marijuana possession every year since the 1970s. In 2015,
police reported 49,000 cannabis possession offences.

The Nanos survey also found that 8 per cent of Canadians said they
currently do not use cannabis, but will do so once it becomes legal.

By comparison, 73 per cent of Canadians said they are not users and
will not start after the legislation is adopted, and 12 per cent said
their current usage will remain at the same level even if the product
is legalized.

Only 1 per cent of respondents characterized themselves as current
users whose consumption will go up in the legal regime.

Asked about their confidence in Health Canada's ability to test the
safety and potency of Canada's marijuana supply, 61 per cent of
respondents expressed confidence, compared with 35 per cent who had

The Nanos survey was conducted between April 29 and May 5, reaching a
random survey of 1,000 Canadians that is considered accurate within
3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The legislation known as Bill C-45 would lift the prohibition on the
recreational use of cannabis that goes back to 1923, positioning
Canada as a leading country on the relaxation of laws related to
illicit drugs. If adopted as planned by the summer of 2018, Canada
will become the first G7 country - and the second in the world after
Uruguay - in which cannabis use is legal across the land.

The legislation would allow all Canadians 18 or older (older still
depending on the province) to buy marijuana by mail and in
provincially regulated retail spaces, or to grow up to four plants at
home. The possession limit of dried cannabis would be set at 30 grams,
while edible cannabis products would be legalized at a later date.