Will the Canadian Government Grant Amnesty Once Pot Is Legal?

The federal government of Canada is deep into the particulars of ending cannabis prohibition for the Great White North, with the Standing Committee on Health expected to start its process early, one week before Parliament resumes.

One of the many issues to arise during the legalization process is the topic of amnesty for those with past or pending convictions involving marijuana. This could be for simple possession or the more serious charges of illegal cultivation and trafficking.

Prime Minister Trudeau has hinted in recent months that amnesty for pot possession charges might be a possibility. “We’ll take steps to look at what we can do for those folks who have criminal records for something that would no longer be criminal,” Trudeau said in an interview with Vice in April.

Jack Lloyd is a prominent Toronto lawyer in the cannabis industry who represents a number of clients with pot-related convictions, including Marc and Jodie Emery. Lloyd is also the lawyer responsible for communicating with jailed Zambian/Canadian marijuana activist David Wightman.

“I’m hopeful that the government will consider [granting amnesty] once cannabis is legalized and they see that the sky isn’t falling,” said Lloyd in an interview with Marijuana.com.

Lloyd was also quick to source a quote from legendary cannabis lawyer John Conroy. “John says past criminal offenses or other negative information have always been a problem for people seeking various types of licenses, permits, and security clearances.”

Lloyd also stated NORML Canada’s position, that because marijuana is going to be legalized, convictions for simple possession should be wiped out and people should not be barred from working in the cannabis industry, or any other industry for that matter.

Amnesty for possession charges seems like an easy sell, but receiving a “get out of jail free card” for illegal production and trafficking is a harder pill to swallow for some. “Removing convictions for possession for the purpose of trafficking, large-scale production, and import/export, likely, is going to be problematic for the time being.”

Lloyd added that erasing criminal convictions for those specific charges is something the government may not be open to doing because the feds want a reference point for anyone who is caught violating the new laws once legalization takes hold.

“Pending the introduction of the Cannabis Act, I think that [the government] should decriminalize and should start getting these cases out of the judicial system. It’s putting an unfair burden on our courts and an unfair burden on police. It’s literally the easiest thing in the world for Parliament to solve.”

The Standing Committee on Health is scheduled to start its due process on September 11, when they will hear from a number of stakeholders and experts on the impact of marijuana legalization.

Marijuana penalties in Canada

Current maximum penalties for marijuana possession in Canada:

  • A fine of $1000 CAD or six months in jail or both for a first-time conviction
  • A criminal record

Current maximum penalties for marijuana trafficking in Canada:

  • 5 years for under 3 kg of marijuana or hashish
  • A criminal record

Under the new proposed laws, cannabis will be legalized but illegal activity may come with much stricter penalties.

Proposed penalties in Canada, post-legalization:

  • Tickets for selling or distributing small amounts of cannabis
  • Up to 14 years for large quantities intended for illegal sale and distribution
  • Up to 5 years for having over the personal 30-gram legal limit
  • Up to 14 years for the production of cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits or using combustible solvents for extraction methods
  • Up to 14 years for taking cannabis across the Canadian border
  • There will be further penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis


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