Critics calling on Trudeau government to include pardons when revamping marijuana laws

TORONTO — Popular opinion may be changing but, if not medically necessary, smoking a joint is still illegal.

“I’ve been charged with possession of one, one marijuana joint,” said Wade Nolan, adding the incident occurred many years ago.

That one charge, even from long ago, can follow you for a lifetime.

READ MORE: Throne speech reaffirms Trudeau plan to legalize pot

Another man, who spoke to Global News under condition of anonymity, said he had also faced trouble trying to enter to the U.S.

“We were trying to get into the States and somehow they connected it and barred us from going into the U.S.,” he said. “I lost my airfare the first time when they denied me.”

There are calls for the Trudeau government to add pardons for those with marijuana possession convictions to the agenda when moving forward on the issue. Yet the government has not confirmed its plans.

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If you are willing to wait, you can get a pardon now.

For a lesser charge such as possession, you can apply for a pardon five years after your sentence is complete.

If it is a more serious, indictable offense, such as trafficking, it’s a 10-year wait.

READ MORE: If Canada legalizes marijuana, how will cops combat high drivers?

Bryan Teltscher, a pardons counsellor at the not-for-profit organization Pardons Canada, said it requires a lot of paperwork to apply.

He added that then there is even more waiting, as the application process usually takes between 12 to 20 months to complete.

“But ultimately as long as you have met the criteria set out by the federal government and you can reflect good conduct in the eyes of the parole board they will grant you a pardon,” Teltscher said.

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He also said a pardon for marijuana charges is one of the most common requests they get, as it impacts people looking for all kinds of jobs, and even volunteer work.

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“Everyone’s doing background checks these days,” said Teltscher. To be blunt though, even a pardon isn’t always a solution if someone has already tried to go to the U.S. and been denied, because it’s too late.

“You will still be in their system,” pointed out a man with a conviction.

Still he’s backing the call for pardons, saying it takes just an ounce of common sense to see it’s the right thing to do.

“It is not a criminal act to be in possession of cannabis in any way, shape or form,” he said.

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