Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Jim Bronskill
Page: A1


OTTAWA - The federal plan to legalize recreational marijuana does not
include the general amnesty for past pot convictions some would like
to see, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Newly tabled legislation would allow people 18 and older to publicly
possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in
non-dried form.

But the Trudeau government is not considering a blanket pardon for
people with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug,
Goodale said in an interview. "That's not an item that's on the agenda
at the moment."

The government has also made it clear the move to legalization by
mid-2018 doesn't mean lax law enforcement in the transition period.

"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 told
a news conference last Thursday.

"This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all."

The NDP has called on the government to immediately decriminalize
simple possession, calling it a first step to prevent young people
from being burdened with criminal records for the rest of their lives.

The C.D. Howe Institute, a prominent think-tank, has recommended the
government consider pardoning people convicted of pot possession - and
drop outstanding charges - to free up much-needed resources for

Legalization could initially result in an increase in consumption and
a need for more police monitoring and enforcement, prompting more
government spending, the institute said last year in a policy paper.

"This discussion suggests that dropping charges against individuals
for illegal possession who have no other Criminal Code convictions or
charges, would save considerable government resources without other
significant offsetting adverse spillovers," it said.

"Similarly, the federal government should consider pardoning
individuals who have been convicted for illegal possession but have
not been convicted or charged for any other Criminal Code offence."

A pardon doesn't erase a criminal record. But it can make it easier
for someone to find work, travel and generally contribute to society.
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