OPINION: High time for another apology, Mr. Trudeau

Matt Owczarz
Life Editor

The new year is just around the corner and the times certainly are a-changin’. Recreational marijuana use will become legal in Canada and regulated like alcohol and tobacco as early as July 2018.

Anyone 19 years or older will be able to hop over to one of the 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) across the province and legally purchase marijuana.

It will be just as easy to buy pot as it will be to buy a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine.

Consumption of marijuana will not be allowed in public spaces and workplaces, and, of course, one should never be driving while high.

There has been no word, however, on plans for amnesty or blanket pardons for people with pot-related offences on their criminal records. Frankly, it would be pretty absurd for people to be hindered with records for something that will no longer be criminal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal government ushered in the cannabis legalization bill, touched on the subject briefly in an interview with VICE in April.

“Until we actually change the law we can’t take steps towards moving retroactively,” Trudeau said. “We will start a process where we try to look at how to make things fairer for those folks [with pot-related charges].”
Trudeau hinted at the possibility of general amnesty being in the works somewhere down the line, but there is no clear answer yet.

Anyone currently burdened with a pot conviction on their record faces an array of difficulties in dealing with authorities, traveling outside the country or trying to find work.

Those convicted of simple possession charges can currently apply for pardons after five years of completing their sentences, but this can be a lengthy and costly process, potentially requiring legal aid.

Slightly more than a third of Canadians support a blanket pardon for people with marijuana possession charges along with 28 per cent of people who somewhat support the idea, according to a Nanos Research poll in May.

This is compared to 23 per cent of people who oppose this move and the 12 per cent who somewhat oppose it, the poll showed.

It’s been a long-time coming for the legalization of weed in Canada, but many thousands of people shouldn’t have to be haunted by no-longer-valid charges and convictions and wait to have their records wiped.

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