Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2018
Source: Journal, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2018 The Queen's Journal


As we rapidly approach marijuana legalization, the government has yet
to explain how they'll tackle the organizational nightmare that comes
with granting amnesty to those convicted of simple possession and
other pot-related crimes.

Tens of thousands of Canadians have criminal records due to
convictions for pot possession. When legalization comes into effect,
there will no longer be any reason to keep punishing those who were
convicted of pot-related crimes in the years beforehand.

In an editorial in The Toronto Star, the editorial board makes a case
for offering amnesty to those convicted of pot possession. 17,733
people were charged with possession of pot in 2016 alone(link is
external), and those charges will follow them throughout their lives
without a pardon.

Giving amnesty to those affected by marijuana laws before legalization
makes sense. How and when that amnesty will come into effect is the
more difficult part of the equation.

Not only is the pardon system backlogged - it can take up to five
years after conviction to apply - but it's expensive. With a hefty fee
of over $600, this process is currently inaccessible. If tens of
thousands of people's cases are simply diverted into the existing
system, those pardons won't be granted any time soon.

There needs to be separate legislation in place to deal with the
influx of amnesty-seekers after marijuana is legalized. The charge of
simple possession of marijuana, for instance, should receive a blanket
pardon. More complicated cases deserve longer thought, but when
someone can be legally charged for possession of pot one day and not
the next, they deserve some sort of retribution.

Even if every person affected by the criminalization of marijuana were
to receive a pardon, there would still be damage to deal with. After a
conviction - even a simple possession charge - people's lives change.
They lose many opportunities they might have had if they didn't have
the conviction on their records. Legalization is set to bring Canada a
lot of revenue when the government starts selling recreational
marijuana to citizens. If they don't divert at least some of those
funds into rehabilitative programs to provide support for those
previously convicted, they won't be doing their due diligence.

It would be unfair and irresponsible to make pot legalization a way of
increasing national revenue without trying to reverse the damage the
law has done to Canadian citizens. Before July 1 2018, the government
needs to be prepared for a lot more than simply organizing who gets to
sell what. Amnesty needs to be at the forefront of the legalization
plan. It can't be put on the backburner until it's no longer a hot
button issue. It needs to be dealt with now, and it needs to be done

- - Journal Editorial Board
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