Ahead of marijuana legalization, activists call on feds to forgive past pot offences

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      The federal Liberal government is expected to table legislation to legalize recreational marijuana on Thursday (April 13), exactly one week ahead of the world’s annual 4/20 celebration of all things cannabis.

      The proposed law will be debated in Parliament. Then it’s likely that each province and territory will require some time to work out regulatory details.

      In the meantime, long-time advocates for marijuana reform want to know if Ottawa has any plans to provide relief on past offences.

      Just last month, Canada’s most prominent marijuana advocates, Jodie Emery and her husband, Marc, were charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of the proceeds of crime.

      In a telephone interview, Jodie said that once the new laws come into effect, she wants the federal government to look at expunging records of crimes that are no longer crimes.

      “We should have amnesty, pardons, and an official apology from the government,” she told the Straight.

      Other advocates have made similar calls.

      “A great way for Justin Trudeau to show leadership on cannabis would be to announce amnesty for simple possession when tabling new law,” Victoria lawyer Kirk Tousaw posted in an April 11 message on Twitter.

      At the same time, Jodie painted a bleak picture of how she predicts the Liberals’ regulatory framework for marijuana will work.

      “We know the government will not apologize for prohibition because we know they intend to maintain it,” she said. “The form of legalization that they are going to put forward is really just an economic opportunity for a select few people while everybody else continues to be arrested....Growers and dispensaries will continue to be criminalized and they will introduce even tougher penalties for people operating outside the legal system.”

      The Straight asked Justin Trudeau about amnesty at a campaign stop in Vancouver in August 2015.

      “That’s something that we’ll be looking into as we move forward,” he said. “There has been many situations over history when laws come in that overturn previous convictions, and there will be a process for that that we will set up in a responsible way.”

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