Canada made major history last month when Bill C-93 was passed, which would entitle Canadians convicted of petty cannabis possession to have their records suspended free of charge. Last week on August 1, it was announced that the measures of Bill C-93 will take effect immediately, meaning: Canadians can now apply for no-cost, expedited pardons for simple cannabis possession convictions.
If Canada’s effort to legalize cannabis has been ‘a bust,’ this is a win that couldn’t have happened without the shift in our laws. Bill C-93, which federal Justice Minister David Lametti named ‘the next logical step after the government legalized cannabis consumption.’ It means that many Canadians (some 250,000 of us have pot possession convictions), will be able to put their past behind them to a certain extent. And as the justice minister said, this is particularly significant for many in minority communities – including black and Indigenous Canadians who have been disproportionately affected by the enforcement of previous cannabis laws. For real, we’ll smoke to this.
While the milestone of pot pardons is definitely something to be proud of, worth noting is that it’s only a shift in the right direction. Here’s why: A pardon is not an expungement – so, it doesn’t remove a past conviction entirely, it only sets it aside. A pardon is basically a way of indicating to authorities that the person, although once convicted of a crime – ‘deserves another chance.’ Those who get pardoned will still have a criminal record that reveals a past drug conviction – and that of course, won’t necessarily make seeking employment, housing, volunteer gigs, and travelling to the States any less challenging in a lot of cases. Databases in other countries likely won’t even recognize a Canadian pardon.
Further, the new pardon process makes it so that only an estimated 10,000 of the 250,000 Canadians with cannabis convictions will be eligible for pardons under Bill C-93 – most criminal records for cannabis possession are not for a single pot charge, and therefore won’t be eligible for the suspension. Hence, some say the bill doesn’t serve total justice (activists, we see you and your efforts to fight for expungement). Of course, Canada is still ironing out what works as the country makes moves that have never been made anywhere and, yes, baby steps. This one is definitely a push forward.
The pardon is currently available to those with only a simple possession conviction, not other type of illegal drugs. You can apply even if you’re not a Canadian citizen or a resident of Canada as long as you only have a record of conviction for simple possession of cannabis in Canada. You can do it even if you have outstanding fines or surcharges associated with your conviction, as long as you’ve completed the rest of your sentence – anyone still serving a sentence for simple pot possession will have to wait.
You don’t need a lawyer or any third-party assistance, you just need to follow the step-by-step instructions in the Cannabis Record Suspension Application Guide online. The parole board set up a webpage to help applicants navigate the streamlined process and an FAQs page, a dedicated phone line (1-800-874-2652) and email address (email@example.com). The process will expedite the pardons process (AKA record suspension) eliminating the $631 application fee and the up to 10-year wait period. The pardon is irrevocable.
Are you one of the Canadians who gets to make use of the pardon process?