News and Commentary

Canada Legalizes Marijuana, Plans To Offer Pardons For ‘Minor Pot Convictions’

Canadian ministers are considering a measure that would allow Canadians convicted of “minor pot” offenses — like simple possession — to request an official pardon from the Canadian government now that marijuana is legal across the country.

“Senior government officials” told the CBC, Canada’s state television network, that they’re working on laying out a process that would allow those convicted of minor pot offenses to fill out a form and apply directly to the Canadian government to have their convictions officially expunged.

The process, government ministers say, would be similar to the process used to pardon Canadians convicted of engaging in sexual activity with other members of the same sex before Canada passed sweeping anti-discrimination laws.

Before Wednesday, simple possession (up to 30 grams) of marijuana was “punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail,” but anyone convicted under that law could already apply to have their conviction expunged, through the Parole Board of Canada, after five years passed.

The government is also considering a “blanket amnesty” for anyone currently facing a pot conviction.

As of Wednesday at 12:01AM, Canadians over the age of 18 (or 19, depending on province) are legally able to purchase and consume cannabis, and grow their own marijuana plants. They do not need a medical license or doctor’s note; medicinal marijuana has been legal across Canada for two years. The new law allows for recreational use.

Americans looking to get their hands on Canadian weed should be careful, though. The Federal government told TIME Magazine that it will be on the lookout for “pot tourists” bringing marijuana from Canada, where it’s legal, over the border into the United States (where it’s mostly not).

“Regardless of Canada’s legalization of marijuana today, nothing will be changing on the U.S. side or with CBP policies and procedures at the border,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told the outlet. “Marijuana remains a controlled substance under U.S. federal law and it remains illegal.”

U.S. residents can consume marijuana legally in Canada, however. But as Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws (NORML), put it recently: what happens in Canada needs to stay in Canada.