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.

Just Posted

Repen: FOI data proves Telkwans being ripped off by ICBC

Former Telkwa mayor received a response from ICBC and says the results don’t look good for residents

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read