There will be no fee and no waiting period for Canadians who want to apply for a pardon of their past pot possession convictions.
In a press conference held Wednesday morning, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed that the Liberal government will introduce legislation to allow people who have served their sentences for pot possession to apply for a pardon without having to wait a specified period or pay a fee.
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“We will be introducing a new law to make things fairer for Canadians who have been convicted for possession of cannabis,” Goodale said.
“It becomes a matter of basic fairness when older laws from a previous era are changed.”
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Under the current laws, a Canadian applying for a pardon of a criminal conviction must pay $631.
They also face waiting times of between three and 10 years after the completion of their sentence before they can apply for one, depending on their crime.
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The waiting time to apply for a pardon for pot possession is at least three years, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Campaign for Cannabis Advocacy, a Canadian non-profit that has advocated for pot possession pardons in recent years, estimates there are roughly 500,000 Canadians who have been convicted of simple pot possession and who would be affected by changes to the pardon system.
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A pardon does not make a past conviction disappear.
Rather, it essentially sets aside the criminal record to give the person a second chance.
Once pardoned, a person’s criminal record is removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre computer system.
The exception to that is pardons for sexual offences, which remain flagged in the system despite the pardon.
A pardon is also different from expungement, which can legally makes a past conviction disappear.
The process of expungement was most recently used by the Liberals in Bill C-66, which allowed the criminal records of consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners over the age of consent to be destroyed.
When asked why the government was not pursuing a similar approach for cannabis convictions, Goodale said the matter came down to the fundamental injustice that was at the root of the criminal convictions of LGBTQ2 Canadians.
That is not the case with Canadians convicted of illegally possessing cannabis.
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“The laws with respect to cannabis that have existed historically we believe are out of step with current mores and views in Canada but are not of the same nature as the historic social injustice that was imposed in relation to the LGBTQ2 community,” Goodale said.
“The difference here is the nature of the offence.”
Marijuana became legal at midnight for recreational consumption across Canada.
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