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3 years after weed legalization, Ontario man still unable to enter US due to 20-year-old pot loading

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It has been exactly three years since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada and two years since a pardon program was introduced for simple possession but some potty people and advocates say it has not changed much that from that time.

In 2019, the federal government said those who had a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis could apply the unprecedented suspension previously known as pardon through a new program.

In the first year of the program, the Canadian Parole Board, which is not responsible for deciding whether registration suspensions should be issued for sentences under federal law, received 436 requests, accepted 240, ordered 238, and terminated two, according to a report 2019-2020 in Parliament.

But Darryl L, who lives in Clarington, Ont and was convicted of simple pot possession while in high school 20 years ago, is still waiting for it. He says the sentence, which still appears in his criminal record, continues to affect this ability to find a job With

“I’m somewhat upset with him,” he told CBC Toronto, which does not bear Darryl ‘s last name at his request because he is worried about his future employment prospects.

He is worried that the record suspension process will take a “ridiculous” time. Parole estimates that up to 10,000 Canadians are not eligible for cannabis registration suspensions. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its website warns that delays are expected as the board has limited capacity to process applications. Darryl, however, thinks his record should have been deleted automatically.

A woman marks the first day of cannabis legalization across Canada as she sparks a union in a Toronto park on October 17, 2018. (Chris Young / Canadian Press)

“For me now, in Canada, I have not committed any crime. It should have been automatically extinguished when they changed the laws.”

Simple possession charges were given to Canadians who possessed 30 grams of cannabis or less. Prior to legalization, anyone convicted of simple possession could face up to six months in prison and a $ 1,000 fine.

Darryl was arrested in 2002 while leaving home from a party with a friend. He was drinking Dad’s Old Fashioned Beer Root, which comes in a container that looks similar to a beer bottle but is alcohol-free. Darryl said police stopped him and asked him about the bottle, ended up searching for him and found weeds in his pocket.

He said he pleaded guilty in court, paid a $ 150 fine and was given a year of probation.

He said the sentence also prevented him from traveling across the border to the US to go to football games.

“I want to go to Buffalo or Detroit and watch a game in my life,” he said.

Barriers to housing, travel, employment continue

In addition to the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, critics say the record suspension program does not go far enough to address the issues they with current possession charges continue to face in employment and the barriers they face in the application process.

Jodie Emery, a cannabis rights activist, said the program does not do enough to help those who have committed nonviolent and petty cannabis offenses.

“Unfortunately, in Canada, we have had less than 400 approvals for record suspensions or pardons, and more than 250 have been rejected,” Emery said.

Jodie Emery, a cannabis rights activist, says the record suspension program has not helped enough Canadians convicted of mere possession of the pot before the weeds were legalized. (CBC)

“However, we still have 10,000 Canadians who claim to be eligible and more than 450,000 Canadians who have cannabis records beyond that.”

Emery said those with simple pot charges should be able to delete their criminal records.

“I think one of the main concerns people have is that the established legalization system continues to ignore the damage caused particularly disproportionately to minority groups and communities,” Emery told CBC Toronto.

“The government seems more focused on the financial benefits of taxation and regulation than to undo the harms of the ban.”

Emery described the cost, the need to go to court, get documents and get fingerprints for RCMP documents as a “cumbersome process”, and said that ultimately the problem is still not completely gone.

“With an apology or a record suspension, your record is not completely deleted,” Emery said.

“It still exists, which means there may still be problems with applying for a job or housing or travel,” she said. “While a deletion will allow the government to delete everything itself.”

“When the government passed their latest bill to apologize, they knew it would not actually be effective for most Canadians who had to get rid of their criminal records,” Emery said.

“It seems a bit pointless to go to the Canadian public and say, ‘We will legalize it, but all those who are punished will remain persecuted.’ “

Even with the record suspension, entry into the US could still be an issue

Pardons Canada, a Toronto-based nonprofit, has helped remove criminal records for pot possession for the past 35 years and says it has helped some 200 to 400 people get record suspensions.

Andrew Tanenbaum is the program director of Pardons Canada. (CBC)

Andrew Tanenbaum, the organization’s program director, said the nonprofit receives calls from people seeking clear control of criminal history. But he warned that if they were already denied entry to the US because of a sentence for simple pot possession and they were pardoned, it would not help them cross the border.

“They will still see that person’s record because they would have downloaded it to their system and they will still deny you access.”

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