The federal government unveiled a new pot pardon system today that will give Canadians a quick, free, option for simple cannabis possession.
Justice Minister David Lametti revealed the new online applications system today in Montreal. It aims to remove barriers to employment, housing, travel and volunteering opportunities for people who were convicted of simple possession before recreational cannabis use was made legal. He said it will help minorities who have been “disproportionately affected by cannabis laws.”
Canadians can now apply for pardons through the Parole Board of Canada’s website. An online application is available and an email and toll-free number will help answer users’ questions.
The new system eliminates the $631 fee and the long wait times, the minister said.
A news release from the federal government said applicants are eligible even if they have outstanding fines or surcharges from their conviction, so long as they have completed the rest of their sentence. Non-Canadian citizens and residents are also eligible as long as the conviction was in Canada.
The Patrol Board of Canada is also working with police, courts, community groups and criminal justice professionals to generate awareness.
The government estimates upwards of 250,000 Canadians have pot convictions, and the government suspects applications will be in the tens of thousands.
Bill C-93, which became law in July, waived the fee and the five-to-10-year wait period for applicants, but until today it was unclear how Canadians with cannabis convictions could apply for pardons.
The Cannabis Act legalized and regulated the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for recreational use in October 2018. A pardon or record suspension is different from an expungement — pardons do not erase the fact you were convicted of a crime, but it keeps the record separate from other criminal records.
Can Canadians with pardons travel to the U.S?
Justice Minister David Lametti said U.S. border guards are now unable to see cannabis convictions for Canadians who’ve received a criminal pardon. But U.S. authorities who’ve obtained a Canadian’s criminal record and stored it on their database from a prior interaction could still see that information, he said.
Ultimately, the pardon doesn’t guarantee Canadians with pot convictions can still travel to the U.S and other countries where cannabis possession is still illegal.
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