Global Marijuana March Wants Amnesty for Criminal Charges
As legalization is taking entire states and nations by storm, many are reaching out to their respective governments to pardon past criminal offences. Though it might’ve been a crime at the time, forgiveness is being sought out to help reintegrate those punished in the past who are still plagued by a criminal record.
At the Global Marijuana March in Toronto on May 5th, 2018, a campaign calling for previous marijuana-related convictions to be quashed was pushed. More than 20,000 showed up at Queen’s Park in Toronto at the Global Marijuana March, many of them vowing their support to grant amnesty to those with convictions.
The Steps Towards Cannabis Amnesty
Present at the Global Marijuana March was Annamaria Enenajor, a defence lawyer and director of the campaign for cannabis amnesty. Enenajor is disappointed at the government’s seemingly lacklustre initiative to deal with the topic.
“These are Canadians who have been barred from employment of their choice, from volunteer opportunities, and from other opportunities where… a background check would have identified cannabis possession on their record.”
A petition started by Enenajor urges Canadian parliament to grant a pardon to those found guilty of possession charges of 30 grams or less. Currently, the bill legalizing cannabis doesn’t do a thing to address cannabis-related charges. In a single day, Enenajor was able to collect over 5,000 signatures during the Global Marijuana March in support of amnesty, with the potential of millions more to be added if more attention was given to the topic.
The Government’s Stance on Amnesty
As of yet, Canada’s elected government, the Liberal Party of Canada, hasn’t made an official stance on clearing prior convictions either. Murray Rankin – the NDP’s justice critic, announced his plan to table a bill calling for the pardon of prior cannabis related convictions.
Mr. Rankin announced Bill C-415 to be “an act to establish expunging certain cannabis-related convictions.” Without amnesty, a person with marijuana-related convictions would need to individually file for a pardon. The cost to do so is $600 and requires one to wait 5 years after the charges were placed to even apply.
“We firmly believe that cannabis amnesty is a non-partisan issue that attracts the support of Canadians of all political stripes… It is now time for our government to act.”
Though no official number is known, estimates suggest that over 500,000 Canadian may have possession charges tacked onto their record. For a large chunk of citizens, this affects travel rights, insurance costs, job opportunities, and additional liberties .
Other Pressing Issues
Others at the same Global Marijuana March relayed their thoughts on upcoming legislation. Criticism of the government’s implementation of marijuana distribution, sale, and consumption also arose.
Erin Goodwin, a business owner and activist at the Global Marijuana March revealed she’s been arrested four times since legalization plans were announced.
“There are a lot of young entrepreneurs who want to be involved in the industry. These new Ontario laws are going to have a bit of a monopoly that not everyone’s happy with.”
Whether or not the Global Marijuana March and the signatures collected in the petition made a difference is up to debate. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty noted that a study done in 2017 shows that 62% of polled Canadians support or somewhat support amnesty for those convicted of non-violent possession charges – a win in the books of many.