With the election of a federal Liberal government, it’s only a matter of time until marijuana becomes legal in Canada.
That’s raising all kinds of thorny legal issues, including one that could have a massive impact on the lives of people who’ve had a pot-related run in with the law in the past.
The question is, once the drug is legal, should people who’ve been previously convicted on marijuana charges should still be penalized for them?
SFU criminologist Neil Boyd says in many cases, no.
“I do think simple possession convictions for Canada, there’s a very good argument for pardons. If you have a possession conviction, you shouldn’t have to suffer the travel and employment disabilities that are sometimes consequence of that conviction.”
Boyd says once we move to regulating pot like alcohol and tobacco people will come to see the marijuana trade in the same light as those other substances, something that wouldn’t warrant a criminal record.
But Boyd says he doesn’t think turfing convictions would make sense for all pot-related crimes.
He says penalties for higher level, or more intentionally criminal activity like trafficking will probably need to stay in force.
“To the extent that you’re a a person who has profited from the illegal nature of the enterprise, who has capitalized on the black market, I’m not sure that’s something that ought to occupy government and courts to any great extent.”
Even though several U.S. states have liberalized their marijuana laws far beyond what we’ve seen in Canada, federally it’s still illegal.
Boyd says even if you’re pardoned it might not mean anything, since Canadians don’t even need to have been convicted on drug offences to be kept out of the states.
“We’ve certainly seen examples of individuals who have been barred from the United States, not because of marijuana convictions, but because of arrests for marijuana possession.”