By Katherine Nixon 

Image by Pete Railand (via Just Seeds)

Take yourself back to October 2018 when ‘Canada’ legalized weed. Think about your relationship with cannabis and the police. Did legality change things for you? The deeply unjust cannabis possession laws took in hundreds of thousands of people through the incarceration system. Many people experienced police brutality, over-exaggerated jail sentences, random stops and searches, and much more. Here are some stats to put it into perspective:

  • From 2003 to 2013, Toronto police arrested 11,299 people whose skin colour was noted — and who had no prior convictions — for possessing up to 30 grams of weed/cannabis.
  • VICE reported that Indigenous people in Regina were nearly nine times more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession than white people
  • Black people in Halifax were more than five times more likely to get arrested for possessing weed than white people. 
  • To date only 44 people have been granted amnesty for weed possession, leaving many marginalized people to feel the impacts of an outdated and racially biased law.
  • In 2019 alone, 14 Indigenous-owned dispensaries on reserves were raided. Places like Six Nations where two Indigenous men at a dispensary were arrested for possession of illicit cannabis, distribution of illicit cannabis, and possession for the purpose of distribution contrary to the Cannabis Act or Robert Wilmot, who is operating legally under his Indigenous rights in Millbrook First Nation.

There are many still working to fight for amnesty like ‘Cannabis Amnesty’ who have dedicated themselves to fight to have pardons granted to those charged with cannabis possessions and to free cannabis prisoners. They have launched a petition to demand that amnesty and pardons are implemented and that legalization is one of compassion. In Toronto organizations like the Black Action Legal Committee offer support to help Black Ontarians apply for cannabis related pardons for free. There are also organizations like ‘Believers Bailout’ and ‘ACLU’ as well as Barton Prisoner Solidarity and Pivot Legal working with prisoners and holding police accountable to the communities they serve.  Holding policymakers, law enforcement, and authorities to a high standard and held accountable for their actions in our society is one way of fighting against systematic oppression. Regardless if this issue affects you, our freedom is tied and it is our responsibility to fight for a secure and safe community for all. Here are some resources and community orga- nizations that are currently working with all the statistics highlighted above:


CANNABIS JUSTICE RESOURCES

CANNABIS AMNESTY CAMPAIGN

“We are a group of lawyers, activists, and entrepreneurs brought together by the belief that the harms caused by decades of marijuana prohibition must be set right.”

PRISONER AND INCARCERATION JUSTICE RESOURCES

PASAN

“We strive to provide community develop- ment, education and support to prisoners and ex-prisoners provincially in Ontario and feder- ally regarding HIV, Hepatitis C (HCV) and around whole health and harm red uction.”

THINK2WICEINTL

“Think 2wice Envisions the upliftment and empowerment of racialized people by elimi- nating the impact of inequality and social injustice .”

BARTON PRISONER SOLIDARITY PROJECT

“The Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project is an abolition group that aims to reduce the isola- tion that prison walls create through various projects.”

BLACK LEGAL ACTION COMMITTEE (BLAC)

“Based out of Toronto BLAC is a not-for-profit corporation that delivers legal aid services to low and no income Black Ontarians.”

RESOURCES FOR BIPOC FOLKS

BLACK LIVES MATTER CANADA

“To forge critical connections and to work in solidarity with black communities, black- centric networks, solidarity movements, and allies in order to to dismantle all forms of state- sanctioned oppression, violence, and brutality committed against African, Caribbean, and Black cis, queer, trans, and disabled populations in Toronto.”

INDIGENOUS CANNABIS CUP

“The gathering is occurring in the context of Canada’s impending legalization of the can- nabis plant in the summer of 2018, and indig- enous people involved in the cannabis industry are looking to self-determine their own rela- tionship to the plant.”

BELIEVERS BAIL OUT

“Believers Bail Out (BBO) is a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incar- ceration and ICE custody. BBO was formed in 2018 by Muslim scholars and community members in conjunction with Sapelo Square and Chicago Community Bond Fund. “

POLICE BRUTALITY RESOURCES

PIVOT LEGAL

“Believers Bail Out (BBO) is a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incar- ceration and ICE custody. BBO was formed in 2018 by Muslim scholars and community members in conjunction with Sapelo Square and Chicago Community Bond Fund. “

THE COLLECTIVE OPPOSED TO POLICE BRUTALITY

“The Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP) is an autonomous group that is made up of victims, witnesses and/or those concerned by police brutality and all abuse perpetrated by the police.”


Katherine Nixon is a teenage community organizer living
on Anishinaabek lands. She works to provide support and solidarity in her community and beyond.

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