Convicted of cannabis possession? Applying for a pardon just got simpler

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The process of getting a pardon for marijuana possession got much simpler on Thursday, with Canadians who have a conviction on their record now able to apply for a pardon online, free of charge.

The new process will make it much easier for those with convictions to travel, work or go to school according to Canada’s top law enforcement official.

Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti said on Thursday that Canada will now provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for people convicted of simple possession of cannabis.

“Providing free immediate access to pardons will allow those with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis to move forward with their lives, making it easier to get a job, an education, rent an apartment or volunteer in the community,” the minister said.

Bill C-93, which was tabled in March, eliminates the waiting process associated with other pardon applications and waives the $631 application fee.

Lametti says the legislation is particularly significant for marginalized communities who have been disproportionately impacted by previous cannabis law enforcement. However, he added that even with a pardon Canadians with a possession conviction may still face difficulties crossing the border into the United States, saying every country has a right to control who enters. Still, following a pardon the record of a conviction will no longer show up on a Canadian database, which is what U.S. border agents usually consult. 

Criminal lawyer Walid Hijazi noted that the effects of a pardon are limited to Canada.

"What a criminal record is is an indication in the RCMP's database," he said. "Border control has access to that database. So if I'm pardoned, the information that I was convicted is supposed to be out of that database but if there's other information on that arrest or let's say I was arrested and went to the United States before being convicted, they put it in their own databases. You have to be careful because if you're caught lying, they can ban you for life."

Before legalization last Oct. 17, people convicted of simple possession could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

- With files from The Canadian Press