CANNABIS CULTURE – NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin recently pressed the governing Liberal Party in the House of Commons for action on campaign promises to legalize marijuana possession and overturn criminal records for pot crimes.
Rankin, a Member of Parliament from Victoria, had this exchange with Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and secretary to the Justice Minister and Attorney General, in the House on December 11:
Mr. Murray Rankin (Victoria, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, during the election, the Liberals promised to finally end criminalizing Canadians for simple possession of marijuana. The current government could have taken immediate action, but has not. There are no details, no timeline for decriminalizing marijuana possession, no commitment to expunge the record of hundreds of thousands of Canadians convicted for simple possession, and thousands are still unfairly facing possible arrest, tying up the police and our justice system.
Why has the government not taken any action to legalize simple possession of marijuana?
Mr. William Blair (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, in order to protect our kids from the ravages of marijuana, to make our communities safer, and to reduce the social and health harm associated to its use, our government has committed to legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana. In order to do so, we will be establishing a federal-provincial-territorial task force to design a strict sales and distribution system with appropriate health concerns.
This will be done in partnership with our provincial and territorial partners, and with stakeholders right across the country.
Prime Minster Trudeau supported the idea of expunging records while campaigning for election but has not commented on the concept since taking office.
“If we are even entertaining the notion of not having any more criminal records for possession of marijuana, we certainly shouldn’t be creating any more new convictions,” Victoria lawyer Robert Mulligan told the Times Colonist.
“The idea of giving direction to the prosecutorial authorities — which will work its way down to the police — about not starting legal proceedings which could result in new convictions would seem to be something that could be done properly.”
Mulligan said the process of expunging records, however, could be a complicated process and take considerable time since there is more than one database holding the records and some charges that may be specified under “narcotics” rather than “marijuana”.
“There’s a lot to this; it’s a challenge, and to expect the government to do it all so quickly is probably not realistic,” he said.