Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto on Monday, October 15, 2018. With just hours to go before pot is legal in Canada, Trudeau says Canadian parents should be talking to their kids about the drug. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

Internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons

People convicted of pot possession could soon be asked to fill out a simple form to speed up the process of obtaining a criminal pardon as part of the government’s plan to address past cannabis crimes, federal officials say.

The government has already instituted a similar system for people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners over the decades.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced pressure to address the pot pardon issue, including within his own caucus, due to the effect of possession charges on marginalized Canadians.

NDP justice critic Murray Rankin recently put forward a private bill calling for expungement of criminal records for minor cannabis possession offences.

Until now, simple possession of marijuana has been punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Individuals are eligible to apply for a pardon through the Parole Board of Canada five years after the conviction is handed down.

RELATED: 5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

The waiting period and the cost of applying for a pardon, known as a record suspension, have proven difficult for some people saddled with records. A suspension doesn’t erase a record, but can make it easier to get a job, travel and generally contribute to society.

At a briefing held just hours before cannabis is legal in Canada, federal officials told reporters Tuesday that internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons, instead of a blanket amnesty.

Much of the paperwork needed for a blanket amnesty resides in local courthouses out of the immediate and easy reach of the federal government and the Parole Board, officials say.

Trudeau said his government would soon focus on the issue.

“We’ll be talking about that in the coming days and weeks,” he said before heading into a cabinet meeting.

As of Tuesday the drug was illegal, and officials at the media briefing said any charges or cases before the courts could still be prosecuted after legalization. The vast majority of drug cases are handled by federal prosecutors, who could decide, in the public interest, not to prosecute, officials said.

The briefing was part of a last political push by the government to answer outstanding questions about a major social and policy shift that will see Canada become the first G7 country to legalize the use of recreational cannabis and possessions of small amounts.

RELATED: Postal services ready for looming wave of legal cannabis deliveries

Officials, who spoke on condition they not be identified by name, quietly admitted they are getting a lot of questions — from how Health Canada will handle complaints, to public awareness campaigns, to roadside impaired driving tests.

As one official put it, they don’t expect the questions to end and foresee bumps along the road after legalization.

Trudeau told reporters that parents will play a role in talking to their kids about the drug and repeated his oft-stated view that a regulated market for marijuana — a pillar of his 2015 election campaign — will keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian kids and combat the flourishing black market.

Canadians 18 or 19, depending on the province or territory, will be able to buy and use cannabis legally on Wednesday — a drug Trudeau has admitted to using while it was illegal.

Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said the Liberals have been working closely with provinces and territories to strike the right balance on regulations to undercut the illegal market.

“We will do what is necessary to ensure that kids don’t have access to this drug and that we work collectively together to displace that (illegal market).”

Jordan Press and Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read