Countdown to Cannabis: The Case for Amnesty

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Countdown to Cannabis: The case for amnesty By MITCH POTTER Staff Reporter

The end of prohibition — and the increasing expectation that the Trudeau government will expunge the records of all Canadians with minor cannabis possession convictions — is all well and good in principle.

But making it so could end up being a logistical nightmare, given the nature of police record-keeping in Canada.

Estimates vary — and if Ottawa has an official tally it has never been made public — but the widespread belief is that as many as a half-million Canadians carry the weight of a minor cannabis conviction.

That burden has long been the central plank of the campaign for legalization. Cannabis is not harmless, nor indeed are alcohol or cigarettes. But the dangers of marijuana pale against the harm imposed by laws that tried, but failed to steer people clear.

But it’s not simply a matter of looking up a name and hitting the delete key. Police forces across the country enter drug possession charges into a database maintained by the RCMP — but often without naming the drug in question. The challenge then becomes how to mine the RCMP data in an effective and orderly way to isolate and expunge charges relating strictly to cannabis possession.

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