Cannabis Amnesty is a campaign promoted through the sustained efforts of a group of dedicated lawyers, academics, and community activists who are committed to cannabis justice in the areas of policing, criminal justice reform, collateral consequences of conviction, participation in the legal cannabis industry, and social stigma.
Over the years, Cannabis Amnesty has developed, launched, and completed various major projects to not only raise awareness about the impact of poor policy in the prohibition of cannabis, but also to advocate for the decarceration, decriminalization, and blanket criminal record expungement relating to the historical offence of simple cannabis possession.
A criminal record for cannabis possession can impact the record holder in the following ways:
- Housing – A criminal record can lead to landlord discrimination, forcing individuals into unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.
- Volunteer- A criminal record can limit a holder’s ability to volunteer in their communities because they are deemed a “risk.”
- Financial Instability- A criminal record can lead to the denial of loans and mortgages and insurance.
- Employment- A criminal record will limit job opportunities and can lead to hiring discrimination by employers, even if the conviction has no bearing on the person’s capabilities or professional competence.
- Education- A criminal record can lead to a refusal of admission into certain post- secondary programs.
- Immigration- A criminal record can create obstacles and lengthen the process to citizenship. In some cases, it can even lead to a denial of citizenship.
- Travel- A criminal record can limit the ability to travel to certain countries, especially the United States.
- Participation in the Legal Industry- A criminal record will limit a holder’s ability to participate in many roles in the now legalized cannabis industry.
Historically due to poor policy, systematic factors, over policing of certain neighbourhoods and unfair application of the law, cannabis prohibition had a disproportionately negative impact on Black and Indigenous communities.
Our efforts in raising awareness about the negative impact of policy in the prohibition of cannabis, and our advocacy on decriminalization and record expungement relating to historical offences of simple cannabis possession culminated in the drafting and passing of Bill C-93, which eliminated the $631 application fee for record suspensions and the post-sentence wait period for those who have only been convicted of simple possession of cannabis.
Yet, despite approximately 500,000 Canadians being eligible for record suspensions under the Bill c-93 regime, only 467 applications have been received by the Parole as of August 7, 2020. The application process is overly complicated and information about the process is not readily accessible.
The Pardon Clinic Pilot Project is currently being implemented to help Canadians impacted by criminal records for cannabis possession apply for, and receive record suspensions. Our clinics are being designed to be accessible, inclusive and efficient. We aim to guide applicants through the record suspension application process with ease. Our clinics will be staffed with knowledgeable and friendly volunteers who are deeply passionate about their work. A clinic staff member will be able to assist in answering questions that applicants may have throughout the process. Currently, applicants must retrieve their old court documents , and have their fingerprints taken, often requiring lengthy wait times at multiple locations. We are aiming to streamline this process so applicants can take all steps at the clinic.
If you would like more information about the Pardon Clinic Pilot Project, or if you are interested in volunteering we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to our Project Manager, Laura Liscio at [email protected] .