Activists argue that without amnesty, many from marginalized communities will continue to feel the effects of outdated laws As Canada prepares to legalize marijuana this summer, politicians are facing growing calls to grant a blanket amnesty for people convicted under the existing drug laws – many of whom belong to marginalized groups. Since the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was elected in 2015 on a manifesto promise to legalize cannabis, more than 15,000 people have been charged over marijuana-related offences – joining close to 500,000 Canadians with marijuana charges on their criminal record. Activists argue that without an amnesty, hundreds of thousands of people will continue to feel the effects of outdated laws whose enforcement has had a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and the poor. Last week, the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty launched a petition asking the government to consider pardons for possession charges. The group hopes to gain at least 5,000 signatures by the end of May. Annamaria Enenajor, a Toronto-based lawyer and director of the campaign, said the sprawling legislation tabled by the government makes no mention of existing marijuana convictions, which can have long-lasting effects. A possession charge can show up in job applications and can impact approval for government housing, volunteer opportunities or scholarships, said Enenajor. Canada plans to legalize weed – but will those charged with crimes get amnesty?

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