Pubdate: Tue, 08 Aug 2017
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Elizabeth Cameron
Page: 7


Group suggests pardoning possession convictions

People with a record of pot possession should be able to access a
'simplified, free' record suspension process, a for-profit advocate
for Canadians with criminal records said in a report issued Thursday.

AllCleared, formerly Pardon Services Canada, released a set of
recommendations including eliminating fees for record suspensions, or
'pardons' of non-violent marijuana-related convictions.

According to Statistics Canada, 17,733 people were charged with
offences related to marijuana possession in 2016.

Individuals currently have to wait five years from the date of
sentence completion to apply for a record suspension, which takes
several months to complete.

"Many young people who are struggling with unemployment, student
loans, and other pressures cannot access the record suspension program
until many years later," part of the report reads, citing a lack of
finances and understanding of the process as examples.

"Our recommendation is that people with non-violent marijuana offences
should be able to access a simplified, free process … The wait time
should be set at three years for summary offences at the most," it

It's not that easy, according to a criminal justice professor with
Mount Royal University (MRU).

"It's a much more complicated thing than the report suggests," said
Doug King with the department of justice studies at MRU. "The
government of Canada is not making marijuana use legal; what it's
doing is decriminalizing some aspects of marijuana use."

Not only would the process take up plenty of time and resources, but
King said the cost to sift through thousands of criminal records and
then take marijuana possession charges off the main police record
would be huge.

"The idea of a free and easy pardon process is unrealistic," King
said. "And it's going to cost money, we need to understand that. Is it
money well spent? Absolutely. Here's the bottom line: If you want
justice in society, sometimes you have to pay for it." The number of
people charged with offences related to marijuana possession in 2016
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