Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
Fewer than 400 people have successfully been pardoned for cannabis possession offences despite a new federal program introduced almost two years ago that was aimed at doing precisely that.
Citing figures from the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), CTV News reports that officials have granted 395 pardons under the program up until Mar. 21, 2021. More people have applied for pardons — 251 more, in fact — but these have been rejected for reasons ranging from ineligibility to incompleteness, according to the PBC.
In recent months, some progress has been made with the program, which began on Aug. 1, 2019, but likely less than many expected.
Public Safety Canada (PSC) reports that Ottawa had originally estimated that 10,000 Canadians “could be eligible for a record suspension for simple possession of cannabis.” Even so, as of Aug. 7, 2020, the parole board had received just 467 applications, with 265 of those proving successful.
By December 2019, four months into the free program, only 118 people had received their pardons, slightly more than half of the 234 applications.
PSC acknowledges the numbers are lower than anticipated, but points out that this may be the result of people having criminal convictions beyond simple possession of cannabis, which would render them “ineligible for the expedited process. Also, individuals may have already sought a pardon before the program was brought in.”
Cannabis lawyer Paul Lewin told CTV News that one reason the numbers are lower than anticipated may be that officials simply overestimated how many people were eligible. Lewin also pointed out that, in the last couple of decades, fewer possession charges were laid and prosecutors gave them a low priority.