Beginning Oct. 17, recreational marijuana usage will officially become legal for all adults across Canada when the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) takes effect.
While the law’s passage in June was heralded by cannabis activists across the nation, several points of contention remain to be addressed by the federal and local governments.
Issues such as ideal pricing in government-run stores to prevent a return to black market sales, public usage rules varying by province, and how marijuana will be handled on domestic flights or when crossing borders are still being ironed out.
One issue, in particular, has remained a rallying cry for activists, but an upcoming bill about to be tabled in the House of Commons aims to rectify the oversight.
C-45 allows adults of 19 and over to buy, grow, and consume marijuana, but it doesn’t alter criminal records for any prior marijuana offenses. Any citizen with a record for possession in the past will still carry that record forward, even though marijuana possession will no longer be illegal.
New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh announced that a private members’ bill is set to be tabled by MP Murray Rankin that would expunge any charges removed from the criminal code by the Cannabis Act.
Singh commented: “This is a bold step forward that will provide justice for Canadians who are going to continue to be punished for something that will be legal.”
Rankin, who previously called for the full decriminalization of marijuana in 2016, also took part in the announcement.
“It’s a question of justice, and I’m hopeful that the Liberals will see it in that way and not as a partisan issue,” Rankin said. “This isn’t an issue solely facing old hippies… this is an issue that faces Indigenous people coast to coast, black Canadians, and particularly young Canadians to this day.”
The bill isn’t expected to actually be debated in the House of Commons until after the Cannabis Act takes effect.
While the bill would expunge records for anyone who has faced possession charges of a personal nature if passed, it’s unlikely to affect Canada’s extradition rules for nationals who are charged in other countries.
That policy was recently highlighted by the criminal case of Quebec native Colin Stewart, who was sentenced to 11 years prison in New York for conspiring to smuggle marijuana from Canada into the United States.