“With the introduction of Bill C-93, the government has provided a way for individuals to apply for an expedited records suspension without having to pay the $631 application fee. While this is an important step towards fixing the harms and removing the stigma caused by our governments’ historical prohibition on cannabis, Bill C-93 does not meet our standard for fair and effective cannabis amnesty,” said Dr. Akwasi Owusu Bempah, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and Director of Research at Cannabis Amnesty.
A key motivation for cannabis legalization in jurisdictions around the world has been the recognition of the harm caused to people by criminalizing them for minor cannabis possession.
The results from the survey demonstrate the need for broad public engagement about cannabis record suspensions. Almost 80% of the respondents did not know that the government is allowing for cannabis record suspensions and over 90% did not know the eligibility requirements under the program. These survey results are not surprising considering that the uptake of the cannabis record suspension scheme has been low.
According to figures provided by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), as of August 2020, only 428 applicants in the cannabis record suspension program had been received, and just 257 of those have been approved. Despite the fact that the Canadian government estimates that as many as 10,000 Canadians may be eligible for a record suspension under their program.
In order to improve the life chances of people convicted of historical cannabis crimes and to ensure the success of the cannabis record suspension program, RCU and Cannabis Amnesty encourage the government to initiate a public awareness and education campaign to assist those in need and those eligible through the process of applying for their suspension.
About RCU - Responsible Cannabis Use
RCU (Responsible Cannabis Use) is a cannabis education company that brings awareness to cannabis facts, laws, regulations, and research. Through its products: Cann I Know and CannEd, RCU aims to educate all Canadians about responsible cannabis use.
About Cannabis Amnesty
Cannabis Amnesty is an independent, not-for-profit advocacy group focused on righting the historical wrongs caused by decades of cannabis prohibition, particularly its impact on racialized communities. It was founded in April 2018, in response to the absence of federal legislation addressing the stigma of previous convictions for offences that would no longer be illegal under the Cannabis Act. Since then, they have campaigned for the government to enact legislation to delete criminal records relating to the simple possession of cannabis, launched public education campaign to fight the stigma associated with cannabis convictions and worked on criminal justice reform to make sure that the legal structures that allowed marginalized communities to be overrepresented in cannabis prosecutions are dismantled.
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Afshin Mousavian, RCU
Dr. Akwasi Owusu Bempah