Why Pardon: The Case for Cannabis Amnesty
More than half a million Canadians have been needlessly impeded by decades of criminal convictions for non-violent, minor cannabis offences that soon will no longer be a crime.
Through prohibition, those Canadians — a staggering majority of which are marginalized and racialized— have been disadvantaged in their community, unable to find meaningful employment, volunteer or even lease an apartment.
As we near legalization, it’s important to understand the consequences of having a minor cannabis possession conviction in Canada.
Here are some key facts about cannabis prohibition:
• An estimated 500,000 Canadians currently have a criminal record for cannabis possession.
• As a result of their criminal records, many Canadians face difficulties in travelling to the United States, volunteering in their community, and finding meaningful employment.
• A criminal record for cannabis can interfere with a person’s ability to lease an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, or be accepted into certain university programs.
• For non-Canadians and permanent residents, a criminal record can slow down and otherwise affect the immigration or citizenship process.
• From 2008 to 2012, cannabis possession accounted for approximately 59,000 adult and 14,000 youth cases in Canadian courts and 25,000 adults and almost 6,000 youth convictions.
• Despite similar rates of use across racial groups, Canadians minorities have been disproportionately arrested for simple cannabis possession -- in 2015 alone, Vancouver’s Indigenous people were nearly seven times more likely than White people to be arrested for cannabis possession; Calgary’s Indigenous and Black people roughly three times more likely; Ottawa’s Indigenous and Black people were four and five times more likely, respectively; and Halifax’s Black people were over four times more likely to be arrested for than White people.
• In the past 15 years, Canadian police agencies reported more than 800,000 cannabis possession “incidents” to Statistics Canada.
Currently, Canadians hoping to get a crime expunged from records face a glacial and costly process, which involves tons of paperwork, long wait times and a $631 application fee.
While cannabis legalization is a turning point for Canada, those with records could be left behind. In today’s age of legalization, how is this possible?
To help get minor cannabis convictions erased, DOJA has partnered with Cannabis Amnesty to create PARDON – a line of clothing and accessories that raise awareness about this injustice. 100 percent of the proceeds from PARDON go to Cannabis Amnesty’s important work.
“DOJA’s strong commitment to amnesty in the cannabis space makes them a perfect partner for the Campaign,” says Stephanie DiGiuseppe, Cannabis Amnesty's Director of Fundraising and Sponsorship “We look forward to working closely together with DOJA to right the historical wrongs cannabis prohibition has left behind.”
It's time people with minor cannabis convictions get their life back. Sign the petition to give your support to those fighting for cannabis amnesty and join the movement!
By Jon Dekel
Graphic by Tamara Hall