Just a few days after Bill C-45, the cannabis legalization bill, was approved by the senate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been hesitant to get into details about what the conditions of pardons for cannabis-related crimes might look like.
However, one New Democrat MP from Victoria has been quite frank about his desire to expunge the criminal records of those convicted under the old cannabis laws — and he intends to table a bill to achieve that as soon as the substance becomes legal on Oct. 17 of this year.
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“It’s outrageous that upstanding citizens are having a difficult time finding employment, attaining suitable housing, and travelling because they have a record for possessing a substance that will be perfectly legal in a few months,” said NDP MP Murray Rankin in a statement.
During his year-end address to reporters earlier this week, Trudeau was asked repeatedly about the potential for pardoning those previously convicted, but he simply maintained that those purchasing and consuming cannabis right now are doing so illegally, and that there’s no point in discussing pardons while the old law is still on the books.
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“As I’ve said a number of times, until the actual coming into force date happens and the law is changed, there’s no point in looking at pardons while the old law is still on the books,” Trudeau told reporters.
“We’ve said we will look at next steps when the full coming into force happens, but between now and then, the current regime stays. I want to remind everyone, the reason we want to move forward on the legalization of marijuana is to better protect our kids, to better protect our communities and to remove the profits from the pockets of organized crime, $6 billion a year by some estimates.”
Trudeau delivered his annual address just a few days after Bill C-45 received approval in the Senate, and the official legalization date of Oct. 17 was announced.
Rankin is one of several politicians, many of whom are part of the federal NDP, that have advocated for pardons to be granted ahead of legalization this coming October,
Since 2015, Rakins has called on the Liberals to “recognize the contradiction of continuing to give Canadians criminal record for simple possession of marijuana after the government has stated that it should not be a crime,” he said in a statement.
In the House of Commons, New Democrat MP Don Davies has also attempted to pass a motion calling on the government to immediately pardon Canadians convicted of simple cannabis possession. The motion did not muster the necessary unanimous consent.
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Since January of this year, Trudeau has been steadfast on the subject of offering pardons while the old laws remain on the books.
“We recognize that anyone who is currently purchasing marijuana is participating in illegal activity that is funding criminal organizations and street gangs,” he said in January. “And therefore we do not want to encourage in any way people to engage in that behaviour until the law is changed.”