Cannabis true Amnesty. The difference between being expunged and pardoned
Being legal now, what is the situation of those Canadians with past weed related convictions?
The same day of legalization, October 17, 2018, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale held a press conference in order to explain this question.
Goodale said that the Liberal government will introduce new laws to allow people who received criminal sentences related to weed possession to ask for a pardon. He also said that they will not need to pay any fee or wait for a specified period of time following their conviction.
Goodale cited fairness and consistency as reasons for this initiative.
He said that granting pardons becomes “…a matter of basic fairness when older laws from a previous era are changed.”
Under the current laws, Canadians asking for a pardon in relation to any criminal conviction, including cannabis-related offences, must pay a prescribed fee of $631.00. Obviously this price is too much for many people who can benefit from the new rules Goodale wants to apply.
Once again and under the current laws, people looking for pardon need to wait a period of time after the sentence has completed before being eligible. Depending on the crime, this time can go from three to ten years.
The normal obligatory waiting time to ask for pardon in cases of weed possession is 3 years minimum and depending on the circumstances of each case. It is too long for people trying to continue with their lives.
The way a criminal record affects your life
A criminal record can ruin your life. It has been proved that a past drug conviction can make certain jobs impossible for you. Drug convictions mean a severe limit in too many situations. A criminal record produces a sense of shame. However, drug related convictions are very common in Canada.
As the Campaign for Cannabis Advocacy says, approximately 500,000 Canadians have convictions related with weed possession. This is a quite important quantity of people who feel eager to clean their records. The new law of pardons without any monetary cost and without the need of waiting for so long is the best news they can listen.
A question of terminology
The problem is a question of legal terminology. It is a question between pardon and expungement.
A pardon simply means that Police sets aside a criminal conviction. It tells the person who once was convicted deserves pardon and other chance.
However, an expungement definitely erases a past criminal conviction. It makes it as the crime had never occurred.
Unlike an expungement, a pardon does not completely remove a past conviction. It does not make it disappear. It does not say the person should not have been arrested and that is completely innocent.
Someone who has been pardoned must indicate that he was convicted of a crime in the past when he/she is completing a job. However, someone who has been given an expungement must not.
Therefore, while the legalization of cannabis represents a right step towards normalization, the reality proves that there is a long way left towards a real amnesty.