FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CANNABIS AMNESTY ADVOCATES CALL FOR DECARCERATION TO PROTECT VULNERABLE POPULATIONS FROM COVID-19
“The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is adding its voice to the growing number of rights groups calling for the immediate release of as many inmates in custody as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
[Toronto, Ontario] – April 20, 2020: 420 celebrations this year will be overshadowed by national and international efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. While public events have been cancelled this year, April 20 continues to be a day of celebration and reflection for cannabis patients, consumers and advocates.
Today, we remember that historically, cannabis prohibition laws were unequally enforced in Canada. Despite similar rates of use across racial groups, those from minority and Indigenous communities as well as vulnerable neighbourhoods were disproportionately arrested for simple cannabis possession and were over-represented in cannabis prosecutions and convictions. Cannabis Amnesty has been campaigning to address this historical injustice and to improve the lives of the hundreds and thousands of Canadians who carry the burden of criminal records relating to simple cannabis possession offences.
Our advocacy, however, does not take place in a vacuum. We are acutely aware that the unfair and unequal enforcement of cannabis laws are symptomatic of broader issues in our criminal justice system. Members of marginalized and vulnerable communities—particularly Indigenous and Black communities— are overrepresented not just in arrests and convictions for cannabis-related offences; they are also overrepresented in our prisons and jails.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a spotlight on the unique vulnerability faced by those in our prisons and jails. People in custody are likely to be more vulnerable to infection with COVID-19 because of close confinement, overcrowding, poor hygiene, and sub-standard health care. Currently, the only effective means of combatting the impact of COVID-19 is through social distancing, but the degree of social distancing required to reduce COVID-19 transmission in correctional facilities is not possible with the number of people presently held in these facilities. This creates incredibly dangerous conditions for individuals and community health. Tragically, one federal inmate has already died from COVID-19 related complications in federal custody in British Columbia and the number of infections is growing. We are concerned that outbreaks in tight spaces like detention centres and correctional facilities will happen quickly, be near impossible to control and will result in devastating fatalities. Those in Canadian prisons and jails should not be condemned to sit on death row. This is simply inhumane.
As a result, the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is adding its voice to the growing number of rights groups calling for the immediate release of as many inmates in custody as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among other options, measures should be taken to allow for the early release of those convicted of cannabis and non-violent drug offences. Decarceration is the only way to protect prisoners and staff of correctional institutions from COVID-19.
About Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty
The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is a non-partisan, not-for-profit group composed of lawyers, activists, and entrepreneurs brought together by the belief that the harms caused by decades of marijuana prohibition must be made right. We started an online petition platform and successfully lobbied the federal government to pass legislation to provide expedited pardons to those convicted of cannabis possession offences. We have developed education and advocacy resources and work in partnership with industry to help Canadians across the country learn more about the harms caused by cannabis criminalization and what we can do to create a more fair and just national framework for cannabis legalization.
Annamaria Enenajor, Cannabis Amnesty Director email@example.com,
Tyler James, Community Outreach firstname.lastname@example.org,
Since its creation, the 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.
- 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.
HEXO Corp gives $10,000 donation to the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty
[Toronto, Ontario] – April 12, 2019: The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is proud to announce that HEXO Corp has joined the Campaign as Purple Partners. HEXO has generously donated $10,000 to help us seek justice for those negatively affected by minor cannabis-related criminal records. Cannabis Amnesty 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, these individuals continue to face the negative impacts of a criminal record for engaging in activities that are no longer illegal under Canada’s legal cannabis regime.
HEXO Corp’s VP of Corporate Responsibility, Terry Lake, has provided a strong endorsement of our work.
As a former British Columbia Health Minister I am an ardent supporter of policies that improve public health, including the legalization of a well-regulated cannabis industry. Marginalized and racialized groups have been disproportionately affected by the enforcement of drug prohibition, and many cannabis law reform advocates have been criminalized for activism that paved the way for our legal cannabis industry. Having a criminal record is associated with a range of health and social vulnerabilities that can lead to poorer long-term health. Terry Lake, VP of CSR at HEXO
Upwards of 500,000 Canadians have criminal records related to cannabis possession. As a result of their criminal records, these individuals face increased difficulties in completing their education, securing employment and housing, and travelling to countries such as the United States. Cannabis Amnesty will use the funds provided by HEXO to continue lobbying the government to completely expunge the criminal records of people who were convicted of cannabis-related offences that no longer exist under the legalized cannabis regime.
About Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty
The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty is a non-partisan, not-for-profit group composed of lawyers, activists, and entrepreneurs brought together by the belief that the harms caused by decades of cannabis prohibition must be made right. We started an online petition platform and will develop education and advocacy resources to help Canadians across the country learn more about the harms caused by cannabis criminalization and what we can do to create a more fair and just national framework for cannabis legalization.
Annamaria Enenajor, Cannabis Amnesty Director email@example.com, 416 964 9664
Tyler James, Community Outreach
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Director of Research for the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty, was on the panel for the post-screening discussion of the film Breaking Habits with Sister Saige and Sister Steph of Sisters of the Valley and Sherry Boodram, CEO of CannDelta. The panel was moderated by Dr. Hance Clarke from the University of Toronto's Institute of Medical Science.
Breaking Habits is a new documentary that tells the powerful story of a former corporate executive turned cannabis farmer, who forms a company called Sisters of the Valley. Fighting against the authorities, the sheriff and local cartels, this is the story of Sister Kate, the “Weed-Growing Nun.”
The conversation explored key subjects highlighted in the film while examining various aspects of legalization in Canada and placing particular focus on the need for amnesty for those convicted of non-violent, possession offences.
A cross-country tour aimed at gathering support for the permanent deletion of simple cannabis convictions made a stop in Calgary Saturday.
David Duarte, experiential event manager with B.C. cannabis producer Doja, said a lot of Calgarians came by the Pardon truck to sign the campaign’s petition.
“This tour’s really about driving awareness,” Duarte said. “With cannabis legalization coming and going, people think the conversation about those who have a record has ended, and we’re saying it hasn’t ended, and we’re still here fighting for them.”
Doja and the Cannabis Amnesty campaign are calling for expungement for people with a simple possession of marijuana conviction.
Duarte noted federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has introduced a bill to grant expedited, no-charge pardons to Canadians with simple cannabis convictions.
“People think that’s kind of the end of the story, but that’s just really hiding it on the record as an apology,” Duarte said. “It can still be brought back up later, it can still be leaked, and expungement is actually deleting it off the record.”
Duarte said on Saturday, he heard from someone who continues to be affected by a cannabis conviction from the 1980s.
“He can’t even apply for a student loan because of this charge he has back in the ’80s,” Duarte said.
Those behind the campaign are hoping to gather at least 10,000 signatures by the time the cross-country tour wraps up in Toronto. The campaign started in Vancouver last weekend and will also include stops in Edmonton on April 5 and 6, and in Winnipeg on April 12 and 13. The final stop, which will feature a rally, is from April 18 to 21.
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