Long-awaited federal legislation to speed up and simplify the process of getting a pardon for simple cannabis possession is now in force, but a Windsor immigration lawyer still believes previously convicted Canadians could face difficulties crossing the border.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti made the announcement today in Montreal.
Under Bill C-93 tabled in March, people convicted of cannabis possession can apply online for a criminal pardon free of charge.
The law 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.
But Windsor lawyer Eddie Kadri says he strongly advises anyone with a conviction for simple possession still seek out proper legal advice.
“I think it's a step in the right direction. I don't think it's the end of this I think there's more that can be done to alleviate the effects of previous convictions now that marijuana is legalized here in Canada but I think it's a step in the right direction,” Kadri told CTV News, but cautioned it may not change things entirely at the border. “US law has not changed on this and so your circumstances of entering United States are going to remain the same.”
Before legalization last Oct. 17, people convicted of simple possession could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Anyone with a criminal record for simple pot possession can now apply for a pardon free of charge and with no mandatory five-year waiting period.
A pardoned conviction will not appear on the Canadian Police Information Centre database, which is used by United States border officials.
But it will not erase information about Canadians already in American-controlled databases -- meaning people with criminal records for cannabis possession could still face problems at the border.
“Unfortunately US laws still prevails on this,” says Kadri. “If you have a criminal conviction in Canada and it's of such a nature that he requires you to have a waiver to enter the United States you're going to continue to require to obtain that waiver in order to be lawfully admitted into the United States.”
Kadri says if you’re had issues entering the United States in the past due to inadmissibility, it’s likely going to stay that way.
“Canada is going to have to get with United States on this and try to negotiate perhaps some special treatment,” Kadri says. “But as it stands now, the United States law is clear on this and United States law prevails regardless of Canadian law and so you're still going to have travel issues if you had a connection before.”
-With files from The Canadian Press