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Canada Grants Only 257 Cannabis Pardons In Program’s First Year

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A cannabis offense on a person’s record can literally ruin their life. When someone is arrested and convicted of a cannabis offense, the initial punishment is the fine and/or incarceration. However, the punishment continues well after the offender has served their ‘debt to society.’

Cannabis offenders are essentially branded with the ‘cannabis scarlet letter’ and they carry it for as long as the offense pops up on background checks, which can prove to be the case for decades after the offense.

A cannabis offense on a record can result in someone being turned down for a job that they are otherwise qualified for. It can prevent people from receiving government assistance, including financial aid for college. People can lose out on housing opportunities and can even be prevented from volunteering for various organizations and causes.

No one should have to live like that – not for possessing a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol. Canada, which legalized cannabis for adult use in 2018, launched a program roughly a year ago that was geared towards helping folks get cannabis offenses removed from their records. Unfortunately, it appears that the program has not helped enough people. Per CBC:

It has been one year since the government launched a program offering Canadians with a criminal record for simple pot possession a fast, free pardon — but only 257 people have been granted one so far.

Critics say the low number proves the program is “unconscionable” and a “total failure.” They’re calling on the government to deliver an automatic removal of those criminal records.

According to figures provided by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), 458 people have applied to the program. Of those, 259 were accepted for consideration, with 257 granted and two discontinued. Another 194 applications were returned because the person was ineligible or the file was incomplete, while five more are still in the works.

It should be a standard feature of any legalization measure going forward, regardless of the country or jurisdiction, that past cannabis convictions get automatically expunged and the records sealed.

It makes zero sense for someone to continue to be punished, no matter how major or minor the punishment is, after the binding law is changed.