The federal government unveiled Thursday a free and quicker way for Canadians to apply for pardons for simple cannabis possession.
Justice Minister David Lametti unveiled 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.
Lametti said the announcement will help minorities who have been “disproportionately affected by cannabis laws.”
Lametti, who appeared on behalf of the public safety minister, said 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 lengthy wait times, the minister said.
Tens of thousands of applications expected
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.
Experts have said a surge of applications is unlikely because most Canadians with convictions have their possession charges bundled with other charges such as impaired driving or assault. They add that most people who wanted pardons already received theirs. Also, police did not tend to pursue simple pot possession charges in the waning days of illegality, to avoid clogging the courts.
The Cannabis Act legalized and regulated the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for recreational use in October 2017. 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.