Can Canada undo 'injustice' of cannabis possession convictions?

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.

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Toronto Group Launches Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty

                       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                  CAMPAIGN FOR 
               CANNABIS AMNESTY


[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.  

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