Righting History’s Wrongs

Righting History’s Wrongs

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Since its creationthe Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty has been fighting to persuade the federal government that legalization of cannabis is not enough. Justice requires that legislation be passed to undo the harms caused by the criminalization of cannabis possession and its enforcement, which disproportionately targeted Black, Indigenous, and vulnerable members of society. People with simple possession records should be put in the same position as those people who did the exact same thing, but—because of factors that have no bearing on their degree of responsibility, such as the level of policing in their immediate neighbourhood, access to resources, family connections and privilege—were never charged or convicted. Our campaign launched on May 5, 2018 with a petition asking the government to issue blanket pardons to all individuals for the offence of simple possession of cannabis. Our petition was signed by over 10,000 Canadians.

With the coming into force of Bill C-93, the government has provided a way for individuals to apply for an expedited records suspension without having to pay the $631 application fee. While this is an important step towards fixing the harms and removing the stigma caused by our governments’ historical prohibition on cannabis, Bill C-93 does not meet our standard for fair and effective cannabis amnesty: 
  • Bill C-93 does not provide for the automatic expungement of criminal records relating to cannabis— it requires an application. We know from previous experience that where the government institutes an application-based pardons regime, the uptake and participation from affected communities is extremely low. 
  • Bill C-93 only calls for the suspension— not the expungement (permanent deletion)—of records upon successful application. These records will continue to exist.
  • Bill C-93 waives the $631 application fee, but people will still be required to pay to obtain documents needed to complete their application — including their certified criminal record from the RCMP and any supporting documents from the police of jurisdiction. In many cases, these costs are prohibitive and constitute a significant barrier to access

The fight for true cannabis amnesty is not over

Despite the passage of this legislation, people across the country will continue to be limited by cannabis-related criminal convictions. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty remains committed to achieving justice and equity for them.

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Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is an Open Democracy Project Civic Campaign Accelerator participant. Website by DemocracyKit, created with NationBuilder.