Canada’s expungement program, explained in more detail just after legalization went into effect, was more than what reporters had previously speculated prior to Wednesday’s official announcement.
Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, speaking at a press conference on legalization day, October 17, 2018, confirmed that the government will introduce legislation to expedite pardons of people who have served their sentences for pot possession, allow them to apply without waiting and will waive the normal fee.
“We will be introducing a new law to make things fairer for Canadians who have been convicted for possession of cannabis,” Goodale said. “It becomes a matter of basic fairness when older laws from a previous era are changed.”
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had faced mounting pressure from cannabis legalization advocates to issue blanket pardons for Canadians convicted of simple pot possession offences once it was officially legalized.
The Campaign for Cannabis Advocacy estimates there are roughly 500,000 Canadians who have been convicted of simple pot possession and who would be affected by changes to the pardon system.
Earlier this year, a VICE News investigation uncovered police data that showed how Indigenous and communities of color had been disproportionately targeted by cannabis possession arrests across Canada.
The situation is similar in the United States where minority communities are disproportionately targeted for pot possession.
According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.
Regarding Canada’s historic legalization process, Canada’s Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, told reporters at the press conference that her department’s work would be ongoing to keep the expected roll-out moving forward, reported Global News.
“The work of Health Canada continues and aims to ensure that within a year it will be possible to sell edibles and other products,” said Taylor.