Doja dresses up to fight for cannabis amnesty

The licensed producer has launched a fashion line to support overturning non-violent cannabis convictions after legalization.

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When recreational cannabis is legalized on Oct. 17, more than half a million Canadians will still carry convictions related to cannabis on their criminal records, potentially impacting their ability to get a job, own a home, travel or volunteer – all while companies in the space capitalize on what is expected to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Doja has thrown its support behind the fight to change that by releasing a line of products and launching an influencer campaign to drum up support from the public to overturn non-violent cannabis convictions.

Working with agency Juliet, the Hiku-owned licensed producer has partnered with volunteer advocacy group Cannabis Amnesty to create Pardon, a line of branded products that allow Canadians to show their support for the cause. All proceeds from the sale of the products – which include a t-shirt, sweater, candle and “stash bag” – go towards Cannabis Amnesty, which works to raise public support and lobby the government.

“Many people are supporting and celebrating legalization, but we’re asking the question about what happens to 500,000 Canadians that are being left behind,” says Natalie Wallace, portfolio director at Doja. “As a brand, we are about finding our way by following our heart, not by walking the same path as everyone else. That means we sometimes think a bit different from others, and for us as we look at this issue as being about fairness. People should not be burdened by a conviction for something that won’t be a crime after Oct. 17.”

Aside from the sheer number of Canadians that will continue to be impacted by cannabis offences, a 2017 poll conducted by Nanos showed that 62% of Canadians support pardons for cannabis offences. A large part of Cannabis Amnesty’s mission is also in addressing the racial inequalities of this issue: it points out on its website that the people who will be the most “left behind” are racialized communities, as Black and Indigenous populations are over-represented in the number of cannabis-related arrests in Canada. However, very few licensed producers have pledged public support for it.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but my hypothesis would be that the focus for so long has been on fighting for legalization,” Wallace says. “Since that has been announced, it gives us all the reason to pause and think about the impact it’ll have on people in Canada, both the positive and negative. Positively, [legalization] is something we’ve believed in for a long time, but for Doja, we’re also pausing a bit on the negative and the people who will be left behind if we don’t fix this issue.”

In August, Doja competitor and cannabis giant Aurora announced it would be pledging $50,000 to Cannabis Amnesty, and said in a release at the time that supporting justice reform when it comes to cannabis would be an ongoing CSR goal for the producer.

“We wanted to support Cannabis Amnesty because they are an organization that is built on volunteers who are lawyers or activists, so they have the resources to actually drive change at the government level, which is what we need most,” Wallace says. “We did a line of Pardon-branded products because this needs mass awareness, and if you’re repping a sweater or shirt, it can spark a conversation that could educate more Canadians on the issue. But it’s also something that lets us get proceeds to Cannabis Amnesty, which is run by volunteers, so donations are huge for them.”

When the campaign launched last month, it came with a three-weekend tour in the Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C., areas of a Pardon-branded truck. While street teams working to raise awareness about cannabis brands have been a common site in urban centres leading up to legalization, the truck was instead working to get signatures on a petition supporting pardons for cannabis convictions. This week, Doja is working with PR firm Com.motion to launch an influencer element to the campaign, sending mailers both to those active within the cannabis space and those in more general lifestyle, health and fashion space, such as Edit Seven editor Gracie Carroll.

“These are people we’ve selected because they share our brand values,” Wallace says. “If we put a human face on the issue, it can help humanize it.”