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600,000 eligible for pot pardon

By Hempology | May 28, 2003

From the Times Colonist, May 28, 2003

By Janice Tibbetts

OTTAWA – The federal government is inviting as many of 600,000 Canadians who have
criminal records for possesing small amounts of marijuana to apply for federal

Justice officials offered the enticement Tuesday as their political bosses
introduced legislation to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of
marijuana, so that people would be ticketed rather than slapped with a criminal

But if the Liberal bill becomes law, the government has no plans to grant a
general amnesty, as recommended last year by a Senate committee that
said Canada should legalize pot possession.

Rather, people convinced of pot possession can send $50 and an application to
the National Parole Board for their names to be cleared.

“It doesn’t erase the fact that you’ve been convicted of a criminal offence,
but it seals the record,” explained board spokesman John Vandoremalen.

It can take up to five years to receive a pardon after a person applies, and a
request cannot be made until three years after a person has completed their
sentence or has otherwise fulfilled their penalty.

It takes even longer for people convicted of more serious crimes in which
the maximum penalty exceeds a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.

Vandoremalen said that Canada’s human rights laws do not allow employers
to discriminate against people who have received pardons. However, they
don’t garuntee entry into other countries.

Pardoned people, for instance, must make subsequent applications with U.S.
authorities for travel to the United States, a prospect that could be problematic
given the Bush administration’s warnings about cracking down on people with drug

The Canadian Centre for Drug Abuse estimates that as many as 600,000 Canadians
have criminal records for marijuana possession, many from the 1960s and 1970s.

Vandoremalen said he does not know how many pardons already have been granted
for marijuana possession, since the government does not record a breakdown.

“I imagine there is a significant number,” he said.

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