Pot legalization is coming, but no amnesty for past convictions

The federal government plans on legalizing marijuana next year, but has no plans to forgive current convictions.

The federal government has finally tabled a number of bills outlining its long-awaited plans to legalize marijuana possession and consumption. However, while the bills, if passed in their current form, will make marijuana legal in the country by mid-2018, there is no plan in place to provide amnesty to those who have already been convicted under laws that the government itself acknowledges are unfair. In fact, as CBC News reports, current laws against marijuana possession will continue to be enforced, potentially saddling many Canadians with a criminal record that could jeopardize their futures.

What's in the legalization plan?

It is important to know that the plan to legalize marijuana is, at the moment, just that: a plan. While two bills, C-45 and C-46, have been tabled in Parliament that would legalize and setup a regulatory framework for marijuana, they have not yet become law. Nonetheless, if they do become law they would make it legal for anyone 18 years of age or older in Canada to buy and possess marijuana, although provinces would have the authority to increase that age in their jurisdictions. The maximum amount that adults would be allowed to possess would be 30 grams of dried cannabis and four cannabis plants for personal use. As the Globe and Mail reports, at first only fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oil, and seeds and plants would be legal. Marijuana in edible forms would remain prohibited, with plans to legalize them at an unspecified future date.

New criminal penalties

While marijuana possession would be legalized, criminal penalties for some marijuana-related offences would actually increase. Fines and jail sentences would be raised for anybody who sells marijuana to youths, with a maximum jail sentence of 14 years. Furthermore, just a small amount of THC in one's blood could result in a large fine for drivers, while larger amounts of THC could lead to jail sentences of up to 10 years.

No amnesty for current convictions

Despite the fact that the federal government acknowledges that current prohibitions against marijuana are unfair, it has nonetheless vowed to continue enforcing those laws until marijuana is legalized next year. Furthermore, there is no plan to provide amnesty for individuals who have criminal convictions for marijuana-related offences that will soon no longer be illegal. Because a criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, the fact that convictions for marijuana offences will be allowed to stand has led to criticisms that legalization efforts don't go far enough to address the harm caused by current marijuana laws.

Legal help for drug offences

All the talk about marijuana legalization can lead many people to assume that police are no longer taking marijuana-related offences seriously. However, as the above article shows, marijuana is something that can still land people in plenty of legal trouble. Anybody who has been charged with a drug crime needs to contact a criminal defence lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer can help individuals understand what options they have, including whether they may be able to get the charges against them dropped or their sentences reduced.