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Criminal

Will cannabis criminal records be expunged after legalization?

By Joseph Neuberger

Before Oct. 16, 2018, an adult possessing 30 grams of cannabis is breaking the law. If convicted of possession, that person will have a criminal record.

On and after Oct. 17, 2018, possessing that cannabis will be perfectly legal. But a person’s criminal record for possessing cannabis will remain. This record can only be expunged under certain conditions and with the help of a criminal lawyer.

Why a person’s criminal record for cannabis remains

The federal government still strictly enforces the existing law. The law of the land will be upheld until it is changed in October.

Amnesty for anyone convicted of possessing 30 grams of cannabis has been proposed. But the federal government has turned down the chance to grant it. In May 2018, the New Democratic Party brought a motion in Parliament to pardon anyone convicted of a cannabis offence that will no longer be illegal after legalization. The motion was soundly defeated, with government members all voting to defeat it.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that expunging criminal records for cannabis possession was “not an item that’s on the agenda at the moment.”

Suspending a criminal record under the Criminal Records Act

There is another way. Anyone convicted of a summary offence for possessing 30 grams of cannabis who has served their sentence can apply to suspend their criminal record five years after completing their sentence.

It’s expensive to apply. An application costs $631, but that swells to over $1,600 when an applicant pays more fees for documents and record checks. The 10-step application process is complicated and time-consuming – and there’s no guarantee the application will be successful.

Suspending a criminal record is a good idea if a person can afford it. A clear record means that a person has better employment prospects, better health care and other benefits, and can travel into the United States. Ironically, a criminal record for cannabis possession stops people from being able to work in the cannabis industry.

It’s unlikely that there will be a general amnesty for those convicted of possessing 30 grams of cannabis in the near future. A person qualified to apply to have their record suspended should seek the aid of experienced criminal lawyers to guide them through the application process.

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