MP pushing pot pardons
A New Brunswick MP says he is pushing his own government to pardon people with criminal records for marijuana possession, once cannabis becomes legal in a few short months.
The move would erase the criminal records weighing down hundreds of New Brunswickers who are charged with marijuana possession each year.
More than 1,300 New Brunswickers have been charged with possession in the last five years.
Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long says there's a disproportionate number of those people in his riding who routinely have trouble finding jobs due to past transgressions that will no longer be a crime once recreational weed becomes legal on Oct. 17.
"I live in a city and region where everyday we see people who face barriers that prohibit them from moving on with their lives," Long said. "I certainly will be pushing (the parliamentary secretary heading the legalization of cannabis) Bill Blair and Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould for records to be suspended for those with marijuana possession."
Beginning in mid-October, New Brunswickers 19 and older will be able to legally buy up to 30 grams of cannabis, have up to 30 grams of pot in their possession in public, and grow up to four plants at their primary residence.
The federal government has said it's considering the possibility of pardoning people with possession records after that date.
Raybould said last week with the passing of cannabis legislation that the federal have "thought about" pardons, but that legalization laws needed to come first.
Blair added that "any discussion of those records can't take place until that process is complete.
"It will then be possible for the government to turn its mind to the issue of the existing records or any disparity that exists," he said.
Statistics Canada data shows that 17,733 Canadians were charged with cannabis possession in 2016.
A total of 205 of those were in New Brunswick, 42 of which were in Saint John.
Those numbers have continued to drop.
In 2012, roughly 26,000 Canadians were charged with possession, with about 300 from New Brunswick.
Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, estimates that 200,000 Canadians have a criminal record due to pot possession.
He said those people grapple with getting jobs, crossing the border, while records also limit access to public housing and prevent people from getting custody of children.
"Anything to do with a background check," Boudreau said. "Even if you want to volunteer, as a result some organizations might say 'Well, yes it was perhaps a minor offence, but it would still look bad for us to be hiring someone with a criminal record."
He later added: "We've gotten over this fear of recreational cannabis use, so as a result going back and pardoning these folks would only be the right thing to do."
Conservative New Brunswick Sen. Paul McIntyre, a member of the Senate legal affairs committee, said he believes there is some consensus on amnesty for those charged with "simple possession" or possessing small amounts of cannabis.
"But are they talking about going further? Trafficking? Importing or exporting? These are apples and oranges," McIntyre said. "What will the bill on pardons entail? That's what I'll wait to see."
Long, who has also introduced a private members motion in the House of Commons to argue that it currently costs too much to have a criminal record suspended, said his aim is to help people get second chances.