Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Megan Stacey
Page: A4


Amnesty for marijuana possession convictions could be in the cards for
Canadians, but not before recreational pot is legal.

That's the word from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who wrapped up a
two-day federal cabinet retreat in London on Friday.

With Trudeau and his cabinet in town, questions swirled around the
potential for a legal amnesty program that may offer Canadians relief
when it comes to criminal convictions for simple possession of marijuana.

The federal government's plan to legalize marijuana is just months
away from hitting London, with the first local pot shop set to open by
July 1. That's the same deadline that's been promised by the Liberal
government for legalization.

"Once the law is changed, we will of course reflect on fairness, and
what is responsible moving forward," Trudeau said during a news
conference to close out his visit to London, which included a town
hall meeting attended by about 2,000 at Western University Thursday

The stop in London marked the halfway point of a cross-country town
hall tour during which the prime minister says he's trying to connect
with ordinary Canadians.

"We know that the current legislation is hurting Canadians and
criminalizing Canadians who it perhaps shouldn't be, but that is an
engagement we will take once we have a legalized and controlled regime
in place, not before," Trudeau told reporters when asked about a
marijuana amnesty program.

Earlier in the day, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the
government is in the midst of an analysis of current laws, with plans
to target any "unfairnesses" after recreational marijuana becomes legal.

"This is a major change in the law. It takes time to get there in an
orderly fashion," he said on his way into the morning cabinet meeting
at the London Convention Centre.

The July 1 deadline hasn't left enough time for municipalities to go
through ordinary planning processes for pot shops, and concerns
continue to swirl about costs of legalizing marijuana that may be
downloaded onto cities.

Despite the speed of the pot shop rollout, Goodale trumpeted the
government's legalization plan.

"We've had a law in place for 90 years, 100 years, that has proven to
be an abject failure," he said, pointing to high rates of marijuana
use, impaired driving and links to organized crime.

The prime minister and his cabinet also were grilled about the impact
of U.S. President Donald Trump's unpredictable behaviour, including
his threats to pull out of NAFTA and his description of certain
nations as "s---holes" during a White House meeting on immigration
this week.

"Canada is a country of openness, respect, and we will continue to be
there to support friends around the world and to welcome people who
contribute to building a stronger country," Trudeau said when asked
about the comments at the wrap-up of the federal cabinet retreat.

The prime minister heads to Quebec City next week for a fourth town
hall, with stops in Edmonton and Winnipeg later in the month.
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