Canada has just become the largest nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis use. In the U.S., there are nine states, plus Washington D.C., that have legalized recreational cannabis, but at a federal level, it is still considered an illegal schedule 1 drug. That federal legality has made it difficult for businesses, banks and investors to really get moving in the industry the way they want to.
More than that, the federal legality issue has had an effect on individual citizens. People who live in now-legal states who have been convicted of cannabis possession are finding it difficult to have those convictions remedied. Thousands remain labeled as criminals, continue to sit behind bars, and continue to struggle with employment and housing after release because of these convictions. Several groups are working to address this issue — but that takes time.
Canada has learned from these lessons, though, and made an incredible announcement shortly after legalization. The Canadian government will be providing a legal pathway for citizens convicted of simple possession. This pathway is designed to help these citizens to have their convictions pardoned and their criminal records erased. Once enacted, there will be no fees or waiting period for those who have already completed their sentence.
Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, held a press conference where he said:
Individuals who previously acquired criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to shed the burden and the stigma of that record. This will eliminate what are disproportionate consequences and break down barriers which could mean greater access to job opportunities and education, housing, and even the ability to simply volunteer for a charity in your community.
According to research, dealing with these sorts of nonviolent offenses in this way actually helps increase public safety and overall quality in the community. These sorts of convictions prevent people from accessing the opportunities they could have otherwise. When those barriers are removed, citizens are shown to be more active in their communities, contribute more, and achieve at higher levels. Long story short, it’s not just the individual’s life that improves — the entire community and economy benefit.
Goodale echoed that sentiment in his press conference when he stated:
As a general principle removing the stigma of a criminal record for people who have served their sentence and then shown themselves to be law abiding citizens, enhances public safety for all Canadians.
There is no timeline for this plan as of yet. Goodale states that more details will emerge in “the coming weeks and months.”
News hit Twitter hard.
Congratulations Canada!🍁❤— Monica maestas (@Wickedregal420) October 17, 2018
YAS— Moira Wyton (@moirawyton) October 16, 2018
been thinking about this a lot this week, thank u for the catchy tweet so i didnt have to come up with one— Brian Steele (@brianjsteele) October 16, 2018
I don't support the NDP but I do support this.— Chuck Mackenzie 🇨🇦 (@donkeychucker2) October 13, 2018
There was a reason most advocates sought decriminalisation and pardons first.— Arün Smith (@arun_smith) October 17, 2018
Prohibition may be over, but its effects will continue for generations still. This is the real public health issue with legalised cannabis: the intergenerational trauma of criminalisation.#cdnpoli
People should wait to go forward this way. It is possible that past cannabis convictions, possession and such, may be expunged within the next year or so, depending on next year's election. In Canada you're only allowed one pardon in your lifetime..... might want to wait, FYI— Richard Parsons (@RParsons2018) October 18, 2018
No matter what you think of marijuana (I’m not a fan), making recreational cannabis legal in Canada is an excellent public policy decision. As is the decision to pardon past convictions. #Cannabis https://t.co/XNdnCfgSjA— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) October 17, 2018
Completely agree! Far too many people have had their lives marred with a stupid, and yet minor offence, in the overall scheme of the criminal process! All minor possession charges should be expunged.— Rick Cornacchia (@rick_cornacchia) July 18, 2018