Canada passes law to speed pardons for pot possession

FILE PHOTO: Employees at the Fire and Flower store prepare an order for a customer as the first legal cannabis stores open in the province of Ontario, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government passed a law late on Wednesday that would allow its citizens with a criminal record for marijuana possession to be pardoned without any cost and expedite a process that previously could take up a decade.

The new bill is aimed at shedding the “burden of stigma” and removing barriers for employment, education, housing, volunteering and travel for people with record for simple possession of cannabis, Senator Tony Dean said in a statement.

The bill titled C-93 follows Canada’s legalization of the sale and recreational use of marijuana and cannabis products last year, making Canada the first industrialized nation to legalize recreational cannabis.

Out of 54,940 cases of cannabis-related offences, 76% were for simple possession in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

The new bill is expected to speed the pardon process by eliminating the potential five- to 10-year wait time and waives an application fee of C$631 ($479).

It calls for a “simplified and expedited version” of the pardon process, and will be allowed as long as the sentence had been completed and if the only conviction on their criminal record was for simple marijuana possession.

Reporting by Tyler Choi; Editing by Bill Berkrot