Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jan 2018
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Maura Forrest
Page: A6


No time frame for what would be 'major change'

Ottawa * The Liberal government is looking at the possibility of
amnesty for people with pot possession convictions once marijuana is
legalized, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

"We're weighing all of the legal implications to make sure that we
fully understand all the dimensions of this and, when we're in a
position to make an announcement, we will do so," Goodale told
reporters during the Liberal cabinet retreat in London, Ont. Friday.

Goodale wouldn't give a time frame for any decision on amnesty, nor
would he say what legal implications are being considered. "I think
the responsible thing is to do the analysis, see where the
unfairnesses are and take the appropriate steps to correct those
problems," he said. "But you need to do it in an orderly way."

In 2016 alone, 17,7 33 people were charged with possession of
cannabis, down 3,600 from the year before, according to Statistics
Canada. More than half of the 95,400 drug offences that year were
cannabis-related, and the majority of those were possession offences.

Goodale's comments marked a change from last April, when he said a
blanket pardon was "not an item that's on the agenda at the moment."

At the time, he noted that a formal process already exists to have
criminal records set aside.

But that same month, at a forum hosted by VICE Canada, Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility of amnesty once pot becomes
legal, which he has promised will happen by July 2018.

"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," he

On Friday, Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has pushed
for amnesty, said it's important that the government "address the
unfairness of prohibition."

"All I know is this is the right thing to do. The current state of
affairs is completely unjust," he said in an interview, pointing out
that amnesty was part of the original Liberal Party resolution on
marijuana legalization.

Erskine- Smith has also spoken out in favour of decriminalization of
marijuana and other drugs. But his party has steadfastly refused to
consider decriminalizing pot possession ahead of legalization in July.

"This is a major change in the law. It takes time to get there in an
orderly fashion," Goodale told reporters on Friday. "And in the
meantime, the existing law remains and people need to obey that law."

Erskine-Smith said it's too late to argue about decriminalization now.
"That ship sailed, and so I think the next best thing is - where can
we move the needle on addressing the previous injustices of

NDP MP Don Davies said Ottawa could consider issuing a blanket pardon
for possession offences that would no longer be illegal under the
Liberals' pot legislation.

Otherwise, he said, the government could decide to waive the five-
year wait and the roughly $ 600 fee that Canadians currently face if
they want to have their criminal record suspended. But to refuse
amnesty, he said, would be "illogical and harmful."

However, Davies noted that a criminal record for pot possession, even
after a pardon, would likely still be visible to U. S. border guards.
He urged Goodale to "at least try" to negotiate with the U. S.
administration to come up with a solution for Canadians travelling
south of the border, where marijuana is still illegal under federal

There have been other indications that Ottawa is open to some form of
amnesty for those with cannabis offences.

Draft regulations released in November show that the government is
considering allowing those with charges of small-scale pot possession
or cultivation to obtain the security clearance necessary to occupy a
senior role with a licensed marijuana company.
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MAP posted-by: Matt