Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty Director Annamaria Enenajor indicates there is a growing government support for pardoning Canadians with cannabis possession convictions. There are approximately 500,000 Canadians with cannabis convictions on their records and those with cannabis convictions are disproportionately from racialized and Indigenous communities. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty has been working closely with MP Murray Rankin, who tabled a bill at the beginning of October to expunge the criminal records of those with minor cannabis convictions that are no longer considered illegal under Bill C-45. Enenajor emphasizes the importance of the financial and strategic role Aurora Cannabis Inc (TSE:ACB) (OTCMKTS:ACBFF) (FRA:21P) has played in the campaign. Enenajor shares details of the partnership between Cannabis Amnesty and British Columbia-based LP Doja Cannabis Co to launch Pardon, a cannabis education and advocacy brand, with proceeds going to Cannabis Amnesty.
James West: Hey, welcome back to Midas Letter Live. My guest in this segment is Annamaria Enenajor [laughter] – I knew that was going to happen – Enenajor. Did I do it right?
Annamaria Enenajor: Enenajor.
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James West: Enenajor. Damn! Director of Campaign for Cannabis Amnetsty, and she’s also a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, Barristers, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Open Democracy Project. Annamaria, welcome.
Annamaria Enenajor: Thank you for having me.
James West: Annamaria, your group and your groups, I guess, more broadly, are advocates for the idea of pardoning Canadians with convictions for simple possession of cannabis, and I have to say that I’m very personally interested in seeing that happen. What exactly is the mindset of the government at this point, given that it’s post-October 17th and cannabis is now legal recreationally, medically, etcetera?
Annamaria Enenajor: Yeah, so the sense that I’m getting grom both the public statements that have been made by various high-ranking members of the government as well as my own conversations through my advocacy work with members of the relevant offices, is that this is not an issue that is lost on them. They recognize the importance to the lives of Canadians that this issue has, and they also recognize that this is a logical next step that follows from cannabis legalization.
So there’s a sense of openness, and there’s a sense of understanding the profound impact that cannabis conviction records have on people’s lives, as well as just the sheer number of people that this impacts. There are approximately 500,000 Canadians with cannabis convictions on their records. We’re not that big of a country; this is a huge number of people that are impacted by this.
So my sense is that philosophically, ideologically, the government is not opposed to this, but as we know, it takes more than that to get legislation passed. So there’s a lot of strategic considerations, there are timing considerations, an then there is also the nitty-gritty details on how to actualize something like this.
James West: Sure. As an individual who has had a cannabis conviction for possession and has subsequently received a pardon, I can tell you that the limitations it placed on my life are extant to this day. In fact, if you want to apply to be a director of a public company in Canada, you have to disclose your record whether you received a pardon or not; there’s obviously implications for that, and so a pardon from the Canadian government isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, even from the perspective of somebody who’s trying to be a global citizen and business person, because those challenges remain because those pardons are not recognized by governments external to Canada, especially in the United States.
Annamaria Enenajor: That’s correct.
James West: So, there is an additional burden of sort of compliance and whitewashing that has to be gone through, and it follows you for the rest of your life. So, you know, my mother was probably right when she said, Well, just make it easy on yourself and don’t break the law.
Annamaria Enenajor: [laughter]
James West: However, in that the law has now admitted its fallacy by making cannabis legal, it does follow that if it’s not illegal now, it shouldn’t have been illegal then in terms of the context of human rights and liberties.
Annamaria Enenajor: Right. Well, I would agree with that. I also think, just going back to your mom’s advice, if you don’t want the consequences, don’t break the law – the reality is that the consumption of cannabis is something that is so widespread in our society. There are countless people that are doing this and they’re not receiving the consequences of it. When you look at the numbers of the people that do suffer the consequences in participating in an activity that is so widespread across the population, it is absurdly disproportionate.
So you’re looking at largely people from racialized communities, racialized neighbourhoods, racialized backgrounds, and Indigenous communities. Those are the people that are disproportionately bearing the burden of living with an unlawful – with the consequences of participating in an unlawful activity.
So from my perspective, it is unfair that there are people who have to suffer for something that a lot of other people are doing, and they don’t have to face those similar consequences.
James West: I could not agree more. We’re on the same page here, aren’t we! Okay, so what is the process? What do you see happening in terms of, is this something that you’re actively moving to get into the government conversation in terms of legislation?
Annamaria Enenajor: Absolutely. So we’ve been working quite closely with Murray Rankin, an NDP Member of Parliament who, on October the 4th, tabled a bill called the Cannabis Expungement of Records Act. And it’s a bill that seeks to go beyond what your experience is, which is apply for a pardon and receive a pardon on an individual basis; what we are advocating for is a wholesale expungement of records, which means deletion of records, deletion of entries from people’s records, and the corresponding police notes and records attached to that, so that they don’t have to be concerned about the deficiencies in a pardon the way that you were and the way that you experienced.
I think it’s very interesting and very telling that you were saying that a pardon is not worth the paper that it’s written on, and I think that that is why we’re requesting that the strategy for this particular issue go beyond merely a pardon and go to expunging the records, because people deserve to put this behind them once and for all, in totality. There is absolutely no reason why these records should remain.
James West: Right. That’s interesting. Well, I’ve got to say: I support you 100 percent in that endeavour.
Annamaria Enenajor: We should get you to do an endorsement on our website.
James West: I would love to, it would be my pleasure. I could also tell you that Cam Battley, who’s the CCO of Aurora, has expressed to me in no uncertain terms that he very much supports the idea of cannabis amnesty.
Annamaria Enenajor: Oh, absolutely. Aurora has been a huge support and a huge sponsor. They actually provided us with a $50,000 in order to give us sort of a war chest, a modest war chest, but a war chest to be able to undertake the work that we’re doing, because we are all volunteers, and there are expenses associated with this kind of advocacy. They’ve offered us one of our advisory board positions is occupied by Jonathan Zaid of Aurora, and so they’ve been providing us with strategic advice, as well. He offers a wealth of information and resources, given his advocacy background.
So we’ve gotten a lot of fantastic reception from industry; Aurora being sort of our, one of the first to approach us and to provide us a generous support. We also have a sub-campaign that we’ve launched with DOJA Hiku, called Pardon.Life, and it’s actually a product line called Pardon, where the proceeds for the sale of all of the items on the Pardon.Life website go to fund the campaign for cannabis amnesty.
And all of these initiatives, we are driving people to go to our website, to learn the facts about the injustices that have happened as a result of cannabis prohibition, and we’re asking people to sign a petition that we can ultimately present to the government.
Now, we’ve been fortunate enough to not only work with members of the opposition – so, the NDP opposition. So Murray Rankin, in support of his bill, I was in Ottawa with him on the 4th when it was announced that he would be tabling it, but also we’ve had quite productive discussions with members of the government, and I do believe that there is openness there, and it’s a matter of now leveraging the impetus to get it done.
James West: Very cool. Okay, well, anything that we can do to help you here, I volunteer all of my resources, including my time, and so we’ll be looking forward to participating in this, and love to see it happen.
Annamaria Enenajor: Fantastic.
James West: We’re going to leave it there for now, Annamaria, and we’re going to have you back regularly till we get this sorted out. Thanks for joining me today.
Annamaria Enenajor: Thank you so much.