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Canada  

Streamlined pot pardons

The federal government promises it will soon be quicker — and less expensive — to obtain a criminal pardon for previous convictions of simple pot possession.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says coming legislation will waive the waiting period and fee for those seeking a pardon for possession offences.

The announcement comes as Canada ushers in a new era of legal recreational cannabis use today.

The Liberals have faced pressure to address the pot pardon issue, including within their own caucus, due to the effect of marijuana-related convictions on marginalized Canadians.

Until now, simple possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana has been punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Individuals have been eligible to apply for a pardon through the Parole Board of Canada five years after the conviction is handed down.

But the waiting period and the $631 cost of applying for a pardon, known as a record suspension, have proven difficult for some people saddled with records.

Under the new plan, people could apply immediately as long as they have completed their sentence, Goodale told a news conference today. Legislation will be required to implement the new measures.

"Now that the laws on cannabis have changed, individuals who previously acquired criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to shed the stigma and the burden of that record."

Goodale was flanked by other key ministers who have shepherded the cannabis file through a legislative and bureaucratic maze: Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

Blair cautions that legalization is only the first step towards a strictly regulated cannabis regime that achieves the government's twin objectives of getting pot out of the hands of kids and eliminating the thriving black market run by organized crime.



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