Amnesty For Pot Possession Charges


Just how forgiving of a person are you? How do you feel about pardoning criminals? How would you feel if we were to forgive, let's say, ten thousand people for something they did just last year? Those are tough questions, I know. But, would it make it any easier if I said it was just for pot possession? 

Well, there's this interesting article in the Toronto Star, by their own editorial board, that discusses Trudeau's plan to provide amnesty for those charged with possession. In brief, the way things stand right now, if you're convicted of simple possession you'll have to wait five years before actually applying for a pardon, which could run you a couple hundred dollars. But not so quick! Keep in mind that that's just the application wait period, and it might actually be some time before you put this whole mess behind you and clear your record.

The Canadian government is offering, or at least putting on the table, blanket amnesty for all. Which begs the question: why, in the name of all things green, are they still charging people with pot possession with legalization less than six months away? In these coming months the government will eat up a considerable amount of resources and money, not to mention overburdening our courtrooms with petty crimes that won't be an issue come July. Trudeau says that anyone purchasing marijuana until then, does so illegally--okay, I get that--and is actually supporting any drug organizations that they're actively trying to shut down.

Can you see me being pulled apart by both arms here? The government is giving us contradictory information, but I totally get both sides. And it's kind of frustrating!

In this episode, we're going to tackle the numbers: since the Liberals took office in 2015, criminal activity involving cannabis, believe it or not, is actually down--across the board! How much is too much before you can get charged for possession? We're going to touch upon the addictive qualities of marijuana. And contrary to popular belief, it's actually quite high! 

So until then, think of anyone you know that has been convicted, if anyone. Are they good people? Were they actively involved in organized drug crime? Or were they simply users? Are you scared of thousands being pardoned and given the chance to work at your bank or grocery store? What if they became your mailperson? 

Legalization will change our communities in more ways than one. So join me as we break it down together. Pardons won't be considered for missing it. Talk to you soon!

Global News. "Trudeau On Amnesty For Marijuana Possession." YouTube. You-Tube, 13 Jan. 2018. Web. 21 Jan. 2018.

This video, taken from a Global News broadcast, talks about the Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, and his intentions to provide amnesty to anyone who was previously charged with possession of marijuana. It goes on to show a clip of Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, giving a speech on why the government is still spending a lot of money on tracking down anyone in possession of marijuana in the wake of its legalization. He explains that despite the pending legalization, anyone who is currently purchasing marijuana, is doing so illegally and supporting drug trafficking. This piece is relevant to the article I have chosen, because it asks why the government is continuing to waste their money and efforts in an attempt to catch anyone in possession when they are in talks of potentially pardoning others who have committed the same offence. Trudeau addresses this concern, and justifies the governments efforts by emphasizing the ways in which it would be supporting the very drug trafficking they are so bent on stopping. I think having the Prime Minister's thoughts on the matter would provide an interesting lens for me to offer the listeners of my episode.

"Ralph Goodale." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Dec. 2017. Web. 21 Jan. 2018.

This Ralph Goodale entry on Wikipedia talks about his political life and all the cabinet posts he has held. Some of which include: Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Minister of State, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and Minister of Finance, among many others. It also talks about his almost becoming the Prime Minister of Canada in 2008, as leader of the proposed coalition government. I find this piece to be relevant because it is Goodale that is now proposing amnesty for those charged with possession of marijuana before its legalization. I also find it interesting that he held ten different cabinet posts between 1993 and the present, 2018. Most of these posts don't seem to have much to do with each other, but this has prompted an interest in researching how most politicians work their way up the federal ladder. Is it common for one to jump around so many posts? This has done well to acquaint me with the current Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, a figure mentioned by name in the opinion piece I'm working with.

"Health Effects of Cannabis." Doc. Health Canada, 13 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

Health Canada provides a detailed list of health effects caused by the use of marijuana. This document goes through the effects in great detail, from long-term effects to short-term, and the mental and physical effects for each term. It provides information on why using marijuana while pregnant is bad for the unborn child, for example: THC gets into the system and is likely to then be contained within the breast milk of the mother, may result in the birth of a below-average-weight baby, and other negative long-term effects of the child such as memory function, ability to pay attention, and problem solving skills. This document is relevant to the podcast I am putting together, because I can argue the effects of marijuana use, both the negative and the positive. With this knowledge, I can play both sides of the court and argue why marijuana was illegal to begin with (since the document talks about risks of using illegal marijuana from a non-health perspective as well) and why legalization might not be the answer, and I can also argue why the move to legalize should have come sooner and why it will benefit the country if it the population adheres to its proper use. The document also lists the likelihood of addiction: 1 in every 11 (9%) users are likely to become addicted, that number rises to 1 in every 6 (17%) if they start using as teenagers. If at for any stretch of time they become daily users, the risk of addiction rises to 25-50%.

"Controlled Drugs and Substances Act." Doc. Criminal Code of Canada, 13 Dec. 2017. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is a long and painfully detailed document that lays out everything pertaining to the scheduling of drugs in Canada, and how the police is expected to take action when faced with individuals/organizations who violate the Act. Schedule I, considered to be the worst, is aptly on top of the list, leaving schedule VI to the bottom. The Act provides information on what is needed for the police to obtain a search warrant, and under which circumstances they can perform a search without one. It also provides a glossary of terms that are used throughout the Act to avoid the misinterpretation of words like substance, traffic, possession, sell, provide. This document is relevant to my podcast, because I found out that marijuana is classified as a schedule II drug. It says that anyone found with more than 30g of marijuana/1g cannabis resin in their possession will be subjected to a maximum sentence of five years. This is known as an indictable offence. Those found with less than those amounts are subjected to a maximum fine of one thousand dollars and six months imprisonment, and two thousand dollars and one year imprisonment for every subsequent offence. This is known as a summary conviction offence. Anyone found with amounts exceeding 3kg of either marijuana or cannabis resin in their possession will be considered to have intent to sell/traffic, and will face a potential life sentence. I can use this information of categorization and punishment to put into perspective what those who were charged with possession are facing and dealing with, and exactly what they did to get there. This also moves me to pursue the number of people who were charged with possession over the years to supplement this information.

Forrest, Maura. "More Than 15,000 People Charged With Pot Possession Since Trudeau Elected in 2015." National Post. National Post, 2 Jun. 2017: n. pag. Web. 4 Feb. 2018.

This article from the National Post focuses on the effects that upcoming legalization has had on the behaviour of Canadians and their use of the substance. More than 15,000 were charged with possession and more than 2,000 were convicted since the Liberals took office in October of 2015. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada was cited saying that between October 2015 and April 2017, nearly 7,000 of those charged with possession were under twenty-five, with an additional 774 convicted. Another 8,300 were charged that were over the age of twenty-five, plus 1,361 were convicted. The article shows how the number of convictions has lowered over the years, where 21,000 were charged in 2015, showing a 3,000 person drop from 2014 (stats for each year are only made available in July of the following year, putting this article one month shy of having access to them, but I have found those numbers and will present them in my next annotation). This article can be made useful in my podcast, because it also makes mention of Trudeau, quoting him saying he will see what can be done for those who have criminal records for something no longer criminal (after legalization). I was also made aware of Pierre Trudeau's use of "connections" to make the charges against his younger son, Justin's brother, Michel, disappear in 1998. Perhaps Justin Trudeau is afraid of being labelled a hypocrite by his people if he doesn't treat Canadians with the same consideration. The article also points out a survey done by the Globe and Mail, in conjunction with Nanos Research, that shows 62% of Canadians support the pardoning of previous charges once the bill is passed in July.

"Cannabis Crime Statistics in Canada, 2016." Doc. Department of Justice, 27 Sep. 2017. Web. 4 Feb. 2018.

The Cannabis Crime Statistics in Canada document provides an overview of how cannabis was handled by the Canadian public during 2016. The year saw that more than half of drug offences were cannabis-related, 58%, while the remaining 42% were offences relating to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, PCP, LSD, and ecstasy. Nationally, cannabis-related offences decreased by 11%, making it the fifth consecutive year of decline. Of the 58% of offences, 76% were for possession (which also saw a 12% decrease). The trafficking, production and distribution of cannabis also saw a 4% decline in 2016. Youth (12-17) drug-related crime was down 14%, with some provinces/territories showing drastic drops, such as the Northwest Territories' 71%, Nunavut's 57%, Saskatchewan and British Columbia's 22%. Youth possession was down 15%, while youth trafficking, production and distribution saw a 9% decrease. Impaired driving was up 11%, which is concerning, but, for the purpose of my podcast, breaks down in favour of cannabis. 96% of impaired driving violations were alcohol-related, and 4% were cannabis-related. These numbers can be used in my podcast to relate one of two things about the Canadian population: they are criminal minded and only sought to get involved with cannabis at any level when they were told they couldn't; or, alternatively, the different police forces across Canada have become more lenient in their approach to cannabis-related offences because of the upcoming legalization. But how do you account for the drop in production and trafficking? Well, my guess is that the criminal organizations might be pulling out of the business somewhat. With legalization around the corner, they might be predicting less time and effort will be spent on petty offences, and more will be spent on taking them down. So the smaller their presence, the better their chances of going uncaught. 

"Canadian Cannabis Survey 2017 - Summary." Doc. Government of Canada, 19 Dec. 2017. Web. 4 Feb. 2018.

The Canadian Cannabis Survey 2017 is a survey that was completed by the government of Canada to gauge the different ways in which the population viewed the use of cannabis, and simultaneously comparing those views to views relating to tobacco and alcohol use and consumption. The survey focuses on four areas: knowledge, attitudes and behaviours; cannabis use and products used; driving and cannabis; cannabis for medical purposes. A total of 9,215 people 16 years of age and older participated in the survey. Of those, 2,650 said they had used cannabis in the last 12 months. There's a lot that I can use for my podcast. I can argue that cannabis users are more likely to be alcohol and tobacco users as well, seeing as how 71% of cannabis users said alcohol use is completely acceptable compare to 52% for non-users; 34% versus 14% in regards to tobacco use; and 69% versus 17% agreed on the acceptability of cannabis use for non-medical purposes. I could use this information to argue the views that cannabis users have on their health. It could be that with the opportunity to get more money at a better job (once pardoned), they could use that money on bad habits, perhaps graduate to heavier substances. But I don't want to speculate too much. Cannabis users also "reported [that] cannabis had no effect on work or studies (72%), home life or marriage (64%), physical mobility (63%), and physical health (60%)." Even going as far as saying that it had Positive effects on "mental health (55%), quality of life (55%), and friendships or social life (47%)." All of those stats completely contradict the reported effects that Health Canada released earlier in the year. And there's another contradictory stat that I can take away from this, and that's that Health Canada claims 9% are likely to become addicted, 17% if they start as teenagers. The survey found that 64% of users say cannabis could be habit forming. Are the effects of cannabis use really that difficult to pin down?

"Petition e-18 (Cannabis)." Doc. House of Commons, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.

This e-petition (online petition) was started on Feb. 12, 2016 by Sam Vekemans of Victoria, B.C. It asks that the government of Canada rethink the legalization of cannabis, considering how the substance was banned before there was any scientific research done, or medical or social benefits explored. And that they should consider legalization now that it is known to have the potential to provide food, medicine, fibre, fuel and building materials. It asks that the people be allowed to carry and cultivate the product; that cannabis be removed from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act; that the government allow all who were charged be pardoned and release those serving time; and, that each province, territory and The First Nations be allowed to decide on how they will tax, regulate and distribute cannabis; among other things. The petition received 20,356 signatures, needing a minimum of 500 to be allowed to present in The House of Commons. I can use this in my podcast to further demonstrate the growing Canadian interest to legalize cannabis over the years. The consumption of cannabis has spread across the entire nation, with every province and territory contributing signatures to the petition. I can also use their request for amnesty in the petition to supplement the recurring idea that Canada is in favour of pardoning anyone previously charged with possession. This petition got a response from the Canadian Government stating that they are "committed to legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis to keep it out of the hands of children and to keep profits of the illicit trade out of the hands of criminals," and that they have launched a task force "led by the Honourable Anne McLellan, met with experts in public health, law enforcement, economics and industry, among others; provincial, territorial and municipal officials; representatives from Indigenous governments and organizations; and young Canadians."

Press, Jordan. "Lawyers Contemplate Class Action to Push government into Cannabis Amnesty." Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database (2018): n. pag. Web. 17 Feb. 2018.

This article focuses on the black community and how they have been effected to a higher degree from marijuana possession charges than the white community, and how the proposed amnesty can't come fast enough. Despite the Canadian black community making up just 3.5% of the general population, they make up up 8.6% of the federal inmate population. In 2014, nearly 2,200 were in federal prisons for drug-related charges, of those, 12% were black. The numbers are stacked disproportionately against the black community of Canada. Press says that the "liberals have been under pressure to devise an amnesty program to account for the disproportionate effects that drug laws have had on minority communities." A study conducted in 2002, in Toronto, found that black youths were actually less likely to use marijuana than their white counterparts. I think this article is a great example of how the government is in the right when they talk about pardoning those who have been charged with possession. The minority communities have suffered from the charges that have been pressed against them, and seem to have been targeted because of their skin colour. Evidence shows that they are disproportionately affected by these charges, when compared to the white community, and suggests that they are less likely to have stronger tendencies to use cannabis. This could be a way to get my audience to see what these charges have done to different Canadian communities, and how amnesty can help improve the lives of many who were targeted by stereotypes. While white youths were, according to the stats, more likely to be involved in the same activities, black youths were still being charged at a higher rate.

Global News. "Goodale Says Outdated Marijuana Laws Needed to be Changed For Awhile." YouTube. You-Tube, 12 Jan. 2018. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.

This video shows Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, talking about the wildly outdated Canadian laws surrounding marijuana. He says the government is undergoing "significant transformational change" to try to adjust to the realization that the near-century-old law around the substance has proven to be a failure. Canada has the highest marijuana use among young people in the western world, it has about 6-7 billion dollars moving into the hands of organized crime a year, and spending 2-3 billion dollars a year trying to enforce a regime that doesn't work. This video could help supplement the idea that amnesty is a necessary step following legalization. Because of the popularity level of the drug, those charged with possession were likely to be among the majority of their age group when looking at who used cannabis or not. If Canada has more young people using cannabis than any other country in the western world (which includes the U.S.), than how can we penalize a select few for participating in something that most people their age were/are participating in? In a country that has so many active members of its population using cannabis, it would be unethical and extremely illogical to not consider amnesty.

Hyshka, Elaine. "Canadian Legislative Attempts to Reform Cannabis Law in the Twenty-First Century." Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice  51.1 (2009): 74-91. Web.

Köhler, Nicholas. "Beverly Howard Hall: 1949-2007." Maclean's 120:20 (2007): 60. Web.