Pubdate: Tue, 26 Sep 2017
Source: Observer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Sarnia Observer
Author: Paul Morden and Dan Brown
Page: A1


That's the desire of Mayor Mike Bradley, who has asked the PM to give
his idea serious consideration

SARNIA - Sarnia's mayor wants the federal government to eliminate the
criminal records of Canadians convicted of possessing marijuana after
recreational use of the drug becomes legal next July.

Mike Bradley sent a letter Monday asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
to give "serious consideration" to expunging records for simple
possession once marijuana is decriminalized in Canada in July.

"I've had a number of people tell me about the difficulties they've
had in their lives because of a simple possession conviction," said

Bradley said he's asking the federal government only to consider
clearing criminal records for simple possession of pot, and not more
serious charges such as trafficking.

Convictions can prevent Canadians from visiting the U.S., he said.
People with pot possession convictions often have no other convictions
and have contributed to the country, the mayor said in his letter.

"It seems to me that after next July 1 it's not against the law, but
people have paid a penalty, and in some cases a significant one," he

"Times change and public attitudes have changed," he

"I see it here as almost hypocritical if we decriminalize and at the
same time leave these people with this lasting legacy."

Thousands of Canadians are charged with possession every

Figures released this summer show more than 15,000 people were charged
with possession of marijuana and more than 2,000 convicted between
October 2015, when the Trudeau government was elected vowing to
liberalize Canada's pot law, and April 2017.

Criminal records for simple possession can affect a person's ability
to work and travel, Bradley said. "I'm also aware that the Americans
don't always honour our (criminal) pardons, but to me I think it would
help a lot of people," he said.

London defence lawyer Gord Cudmore says he has a "mixed reaction" to
Bradley's suggestion.

"I think it's a very complicated issue. And I think there's arguments
on both sides," he said. "You usually don't back-date or make things
retroactive (in the criminal justice system)," he added. Cudmore said
he believes marijuana should have been legalized years ago. He also
notes expunging criminal records isn't as easy as just saying it
should be done.

"I think it would (take a lot of effort)" to clear every Canadian
convicted of simple possession, he said, adding he's seeing "less and
less" simple possession charges coming before the courts.

Paul Whitehead, a retired Western University sociologist who
specializes in criminology and addictions, said he is "not crazy"
about decriminalization.

He says what should be taken into account is the number of individuals
who plead down to simple possession from more serious charges, such as
possession for the purposes of trafficking.

"Our court system depends on 90 per cent of people charged pleading
guilty," he said. "Whole lots of convictions for simple possessions
were plea-negotiated from possession for the purposes of

"I think it's important to keep in mind how (the simple possession
conviction) got there," he added.

Still, Whitehead said he doesn't buy the argument that clearing all of
those possession charges would be difficult to do.

"It's done all the time. They're expunged or sealed" or the person
gets a pardon, he said.

Whitehead said he's against the Liberal legislation for "public
health" reasons.

"It's impossible to increase the availability and acceptability (of
pot) for normal, healthy adults without increasing the acceptability
and availability for children and adolescents," he said.

Now that there is a timeline to make recreational pot use legal by
July 1, the timing is right to consider those left with criminal
records because of existing laws, Bradley said.

He said the federal government has the legislative power to expunge
those criminal records. And people with records are already dealing
with changes made by the previous federal Conservative government that
made it more difficult and timeconsuming to get a criminal pardon in

"I've heard of cases of three to five years to get a pardon on a
simple possession," Bradley said.
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