Article by Mike Adler, Toronto.com
Canada was wrong to “criminalize children” caught with small amounts of marijuana and will be right to offer fast, free pardons to people convicted of simple possession of the drug, Scarborough Southwest MP Bill Blair says.
Blair, a Scarborough-raised former Toronto police chief, also defended the Liberal government’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults last fall.
He spoke at a May 30 community meeting in Scarborough-Agincourt, a riding where Conservatives have attacked Liberal policies on marijuana, or cannabis, during recent election and byelection campaigns.
Blair, now federal minister for border security and organized crime reduction, said marijuana was sold to children for decades in Canadian cities despite the criminal prohibition on possession, “which was like a sledgehammer that nobody wanted to swing.”
Legalizing possession for adults, as the Liberals did last fall, allows police to issue tickets but not criminal charges to children found with the drug.
“That’s better for the child. It’s a better outcome for society,” Blair told riding residents at the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services.
Many “otherwise law-abiding people” have criminal records, because, “years ago, when they were 16 or 17 years old, they made a mistake,” and were arrested for possession, he said.
“We want all those Canadians to have a fresh start.”
Blair, a police officer for 40 years before entering federal politics, acknowledged records for possession “affected poor people, racialized and Indigenous people disproportionately. It didn’t affect a lot of people who look like me.”
The Liberals’ Bill C-93, which must still pass third reading before the House of Commons breaks for summer, would waive the mandatory five-year wait and $631 fee for Canadians seeking pardons for marijuana possession.