In 2013, Justin Trudeau – then leader of the third-place party – about a half-dozen times. He was unapologetic. He noted that the most recent occasion was during a dinner party at his Montreal home — well after his election to Parliament. Two years later, he became prime minister.
Not all Canadians have had the privilege of using cannabis without consequence.
Today, more than 500,000 Canadians are encumbered with a criminal record for doing something that is now legal: possessing a small amount (30 grams or fewer) of cannabis. A criminal conviction has real and lasting consequences. It can restrict the bearer's access to employment, housing, travel and the opportunities that accompany them. This impact is grossly disproportionate to the actual harm caused by the simple possession of marijuana.
[Toronto, Ontario] - October 17, 2018: Today the Cannabis Act came into force accomplishing what many believed could not be achieved. Legalization sends a positive message to Canadians and to the rest of the world that it’s time to move away from the ineffective and harmful war on drugs and adopt a pragmatic approach that focuses on harm reduction rather than relying on antiquated stereotypes about cannabis consumers. This monumental shift must be applauded.
In spite of today’s announcement, many Canadians will remain left behind. Decades of cannabis prohibition have saddled hundreds of thousands of Canadians with criminal convictions for minor cannabis offences. Moreover, a history of unfair and unequal enforcement of cannabis laws have disproportionately burdened marginalized and racialized Canadians with cannabis convictions. Despite similar rates of use across racial groups, racialized Canadians are disproportionately arrested for simple cannabis possession.
This morning, the federal government announced that it intends to give pardons to Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty enthusiastically welcomes this news and we look forward to reviewing any proposed cannabis amnesty legislation that will eventually be tabled. Our main concern will be to ensure that any proposed regime meets the needs of the 500,000 Canadians who have their lives impacted by a criminal record for simple non-violent cannabis possession convictions.
We look forward to working with the government to accomplish cannabis amnesty in a timely manner. A fair and effective cannabis amnesty process must contain four central features: the application must be free, its effects must be immediate, the process must be simple, and it must involve the expungement or permanent deletion of records. Annamaria Enenajor, Director of the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty, stated, “Record suspensions or pardons are insufficient. They do not erase a convicted offence; they merely set it aside. Without expungement, individuals convicted of possession remain vulnerable to having their convictions reinstated. The government’s openness to consider cannabis amnesty gives us hope and our discussions to date have been fruitful, but the whole point of amnesty is to permanently eliminate, rather than merely suspend, the harms that stem from a previous cannabis conviction. Only expungement accomplishes this.”
The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty recognizes that records in relation to cannabis offences are not all kept systematically and in the same place, but Ms. Enenajor adds, “Canadians should not be deprived of peace of mind because of our government’s poor record-keeping practices.”
The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is proud to announce that Omar Khan and Melissa Lantsman have joined the Advisory Board for the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty. Cannabis Amnety is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization working to improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who carry the burden of criminal records relating to simple cannabis possession offences. Without amnesty, individuals convicted of possession will continue to face the negative impact of a criminal record for something that will no longer be illegal as of October 17, 2018.
On October 3, 2018, Annamaria Enenajor, Director of Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty stood by NDP MP Murray Rankin as he announced that he would be tabling bill, C-415, An Act to establish a expunging certain cannabis-related convictions. Ms. Enenajor said, “while C-415 has been tabled by the NDP, we firmly believe that cannabis amnesty is a non-partisan issue that attracts the support of Canadians of all political stripes. The fact that both Mr. Khan and Ms. Lantsman have offered us their time and expertise on a pro bono basis is a testament to that. It is now time for our government to act.”
Omar Khan is a seasoned political and public policy professional who served as Chief of Staff to the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care echoes this sentiment: “As a Liberal who has worked at the highest levels of the Party both federally and at Queen's Park, I urge the federal government to adopt Murray Rankin's private member's bill as government legislation. As we approach October 17th it's important to recognize that racialized and indigenous communities are overrepresented amongst those incarcerated for simple cannabis possession in this country. It's time to address this injustice.”
Melissa Lantsman was head of Premier Doug Ford’s 2018 War Room and served as chief spokesperson for the campaign. Prior to that, she served as Caroline Mulroney’s leadership campaign director and held senior roles in the 2008, 2011 and 2015 federal Conservative Party of Canada campaign war rooms. She equally believes that the time has come to make cannabis amnesty a reality in Canada: “As a lifelong Conservative, I support NDP member’s Murray Rankin's private member's bill and urge the Liberal government to adopt this bill as government legislation. We need to help the over half million affected Canadians get their life back on track, without the burden of a criminal record for minor possession holding them back — we need to focus on violent and dangerous criminals.”
Murray Rankin, a New Democrat MP, announced today (Oct. 3) that he will table a private member's bill in the House of Commons calling for the expungement of criminal records for any Canadian carrying a charge for minor cannabis possession.
“This is a day I have been working on literally since the 1970s,” he said this afternoon in the House foyer.
“I believe it’s critical that Canadians who have criminal records for something that in two short weeks will be perfectly legal no longer suffer the burden of having a criminal record.”
Rankin was flanked by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh who called the initiative a “bold step forward”. If passed, Singh said, the legislation asks to delete the record for anyone thats faced minor, non-violent possession of a personal nature.
Annamaria Enenajor, a Toronto criminal lawyer and the campaign director for Cannabis Amnesty, also spoke during the scrum. The organization is a non-profit, non-partisan group working to improve the lives of Canadians with weed-related convictions.
Cannabis Amnesty estimates that over 500,000 Canadians live with charges for activities that will be considered legal after October 17—the official date of the federal legalization of cannabis.
When it comes into effect, Bill C-45 will allow for the personal possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis for adults over the legal age, including up to four homegrown plants.
“These are Canadians who have been barred from employment of their choice, volunteer opportunities, and from other opportunities where a screening or background check would have identified cannabis possession on their record,” Enenajor said to the press.
“We believe these Canadians deserve a second change and we believe our country deserves to have them input the best of their skills and knowledge to our marketplace.”
As a part of the campaign, Cannabis Amnesty says they reached out to all parties at all levels of government to seek their cooperation and input.
“We have heard from the Liberal party and we have had some discussions informing them about what expungement or cannabis amnesty would look like, but there has been no movement on that front,” said Enenajor.
“There has been no guarantee on the part of the government, no action, no movement on that front, but there has been an openness from them. I hope they take on that openness and attach to it a sense of urgency.”
Enenajor also drew attention to the systemic racism surrounding cannabis convictions across North America.
“It is incredibly important that these Canadians be allowed to get their life back on track without the burden of a cannabis conviction hanging over their heads. It is even more pressing given the reality that cannabis possession convictions and prosecutions in Canada disproportionately affect radicalized and marginalized Canadians,” she said.
“These Canadians are far more likely to have beens stopped by the police, arrested, and convicted, and receive a harsher sentences for this offence, and we think that is simply unfair and unjust.”
Rankin echoed the statement, adding that he has unofficially spoken to other MPs and government officials who acknowledge cannabis convictions disproportionately affect marginalized Canadians. He hopes other MPs will see this initiative as a social justice issue, and not a partisan tactic.
Rankin says he does not expect the bill to enter into debate before October 17, but he predicts that to take place sometime in early November.
The bill will be presented in the House of Commons today around 12:00 p.m. (PT).
UPDATE (Oct. 4, 2018 at 3:34 p.m. PT): Due to a lack of time, the bill was tabled on Thursday, October 4, 2018.
DOJA Cannabis Limited and the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty are excited to announce the launch of PARDON, an advocacy campaign and product line that brings awareness to the injustices that cannabis prohibition has caused. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of PARDON products will be contributed to the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty. PARDON Products are also available at https://doja.life and in store at DOJA locations.Read more
Montreal, Canada - Annamaria Enenajor says it's about righting a wrong.
The Toronto-based lawyer is among a group of other professionals and activists leading a campaign to get the Canadian government to grant amnesty to those with simple cannabis possession convictions on their records.
With Canada planning to legalise recreational marijuana by July 1, amnesty would address an "historic injustice" that has affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country, Enenajor said.
"We find it particularly unjust because we know that the individuals who are most impacted by the criminalisation of cannabis are people who are vulnerable members of society and marginalised and racialised members of society," she told Al Jazeera.
For the full article, click here.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO GROUP LAUNCHES
[Toronto, ON] (May 4st 2018) - The harms caused by decades of marijuana prohibition must be rectified. On May 5, 2018, a group of lawyers, activists and entrepreneurs will launch a campaign to ask the federal government to grant blanket pardons for individuals convicted of minor cannabis possession offences.
The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty will launch at the 20th annual Toronto Global Marijuana March, taking place at Queen’s Park. Over the next few months, they will develop education and advocacy resources to help Canadians across the country learn more about the harms caused by cannabis prohibition. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians currently have a criminal record related to simple possession of cannabis. Pardoning these historical offences has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, including those who are the most marginalized.
In February 2016, Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, acknowledged that one of the greatest injustices in this country is the disparity and the disproportionality of the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws and the impact that those laws have had on minority and Indigenous communities as well as those in vulnerable neighbourhoods. Yet, the federal government has not taken any steps to right these historic wrongs.
“The devastating impact of cannabis prosecutions must not be an afterthought as we march towards legalization,” says Annamaria Enenajor, Campaign Director and criminal defence lawyer at the Toronto-based firm Ruby, Shiller & Enenajor. “If we care about fairness and equality, cannabis amnesty must be front and centre. If we don’t address the discriminatory way this drug has historically been policed, we will reproduce discrimination in the process of legalization.”
A poll conducted in May 2017 by Nanos Research and the Globe and Mail indicated that 62% of Canadians either support or somewhat support pardons for people with criminal records for marijuana possession. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is asking the government to ACT NOW and issue blanket pardons to all individuals for the offence of simple possession of cannabis.Read more