Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin said the federal government needs to start moving on cannabis legalization, starting with expunging criminal records for Canadians charged with possession.

During a Dec. 11 session in the House of Commons Rankin, the NDP justice critic, questioned the government’s commitment to legalization.

“Why has the government not taken any action to legalize simple possession of marijuana?” Rankin said. “The Liberals promised to finally end criminalizing Canadians for simple possession of marijuana. The current government could have taken immediate action, but has not. There are no details, no timeline for decriminalizing marijuana possession, no commitment to expunge the record of hundreds of thousands of Canadians convicted for simple possession, and thousands are still unfairly facing possible arrest, tying up the police and our justice system.”

The federal government has said its first step in legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis is the establishment of a federal-provincial-territorial task force, though no timeline has been given on when this will take place.

Earlier this week, Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay revealed that his city, along with Victoria and Vancouver, are drafting a letter to prime minister Justin Trudeau, formally requesting a timeline for cannabis reform.

Lawyer Robert Mulligan said expunging the records of Canadians with possession charges is a difficult, but important task.

“There’s a lot to this; it’s a challenge, and to expect the government to do it all so quickly is probably not realistic,” Mulligan said.

Mulligan said there isn’t a federal database that houses all records of drug charges and would require working with all three levels of government, along with corresponding law enforcement operations. Mulligan said there may be further complications, including cannabis possession that also included other narcotics and trafficking charges.

Mulligan said what can be done now is the halt to any new possession charges by police.

“If we are even entertaining the notion of not having any more criminal records for possession of marijuana, we certainly shouldn’t be creating any more new convictions,” Mulligan said. “The idea of giving direction to the prosecutorial authorities — which will work its way down to the police — about not starting legal proceedings which could result in new convictions would seem to be something that could be done properly.