According to a poll by The Globe and Mail/Nanos Research, 62% of Canadians support or somewhat support a pardon for every person with a criminal record for cannabis possession. In comparison, 35% of respondents said they oppose or somewhat oppose the idea.
The Canadian federal government introduced legislation last month that aimed to legalize cannabis by July 2018. Despite widespread pressure, so far the government has refused to call on law enforcement to stop charging civilians with simple possession while the legislation makes its way through parliament.
In an interview last month with Vice Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the current system was unfair. He acknowledged that vulnerable and marginalized Canadians are more likely to end up with criminal records than those from more privileged backgrounds.
“We’ll take steps to look at what we can do for those folks who have criminal records for something that would no longer be criminal,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Note that Mr. Trudeau stopped short of promising an amnesty in his comment.
Just last year, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report urging the government to pardon everyone who has been convicted of cannabis possession. The report pointed out that even a minor possession offense can severely limit a person’s ability to work and travel.
Estimates vary on how many Canadians have simple possession convictions on their records. In 2015, police reported 49,000 cannabis possession offences, so it’s likely the number is in the tens of thousands every year since the 1970s.
The Nanos survey was conducted between April 29 and May 5, reaching a random survey of 1,000 Canadians.
The survey also found that 8% of Canadians said they currently do not consume cannabis, but would start once it becomes legal. Legislation would allow all Canadians 18 or older to buy cannabis in provincially regulated retail spaces, or to grow up to four plants at home.
The possession limit would be 30 grams of dried cannabis flower, while limits on edible products would be determined at a later date.