Everything has a past, a history and a chronicle to tell. Cannabis in Canada is no different. Which a long, and tumultuous history, Cannabis in the True North has risen, fallen, and barely lived on throughout its Canadian history. Today, Canada is only the second country in the world to legalize Cannabis on a federal level, pushing past the United States and the European Union. But what is the history of Cannabis in Canada? How did the laws and legislation of today come into being and when? Today we are going to learn just that, and discover together the history of Marijuana and Hemp in the Great White North. While this is not going to be a complete history we hope to bring the main idea, and ideas to light. So sit back relax and get ready because here we go!
The Early Years: 1801-1923
These are the years of Hemp production, Starting in 1801 when the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (John Graves Simcoe) distributed hemp seeds to farmers in an effort to stimulate and grow the industry. It was his hope and goal that with the seeds distributed, and farmers not having to find them themselves, that they would use and grow more Hemp. The government continues to support the mission of Hemp cultivation when the Parliament of Upper Canada allocated 300 pounds for machinery to process all of the new Hemp coming in from domestic Hemp Producers, this was not only an incentive, but a way to help everybody all around, the farmers, the government, and the economy for the people. In 1917 a new machine is made that makes processing Hemp much easier and faster but unfortunately, Hemp production was dropping off in favour of the production of cotton, as it was less labour intensive. Then, in 1923, around the same time as the other great nations of the world, Cannabis was lumped in with opium, cocaine, and morphine, becoming an illegal substance to possess. This was the end of the Hemp industry in Canada, well the final mail at least.
The Middle Years: 1937 to 1996
Despite Cannabis being illegal for over ten years, this first seizure of Canadian Cannabis occurred in 1937 by Canadian law enforcement. This struck fear in the hearts of those who were cultivating Marijuana, as for the first time they realized the government was not making light of this. Gaining popularity in the ’60s, as it did all over the world, Canadian cannabis use rose drastically going from 25 convictions in 14 years, to 20 in one year alone. That year being 1962. By 1968, the number of Cannabis users had skyrocketed, thanks to the college life and hippie counter-culture, leading to 2,300 convictions. Leading to one of the highest rates of convictions for Cannabis in Canadian history. Then, thanks to the massive uprising in Cannabis culture, the Canadian Government formed the Royal Commission of Inquiry in the non-medical use of Drugs. As one could imagine this did not bode well to Cannabis users. In 1972 surprisingly, the Commission recommended that the federal government remove criminal penalties for the use and possession of Cannabis, This surprised many, but the Government did not react, and no steps were taken to decriminalize Cannabis. Now things are about to start to get exciting, in 1996, a man named Terrance Parker was arrested for the cultivation and use of Cannabis to control his epileptic seizures. Going on for four years he appealed to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2000 they ruled in favour of Parker, rendering the prohibition of cannabis illegal across the country. By 2001 The first iteration of Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program called the Marijuana for Medical Access Regulations. This allowed users to either grow their own or buy from licensed growers Just as it seemed things were calming down some of the most tumultuous times for Cannabis were on there way. From 2003-2004 The government in various ways attempted to decriminalize Cannabis, but both attempts ended in failure. By 2005 Vancouver city authorities drafted a plan titled “Preventing Harm From Psychoactive Drug Use” in an attempt to regulate the legal sale of Cannabis. But things were only going to get worse for cannabis users and cultivators, for in 2006 Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his own strategy for Cannabis. Imposing mandatory prison sentences on cannabis dealers and anyone who was charged with grown 500 plants or more, would face a two-year minimum sentence, while the maximum increased from 7 to 14. The medical industry took a huge blow, and Cannabis users and cultivators were in shock. Fast forward to 2011 and Justice Donald Taliano ruled that the MMAR and the prohibitions against cannabis were unconstitutional, and ordered the government to fix the program accordingly. A huge victory to Cannabis supporters, as one would imagine. By 2013 The government created a commercially licensed industry for the production of Medical Cannabis. Another huge victory for the Cannabis market. In 2015 non-dried plant versions such as edibles could be owned and used thanks to a Cannabis Baer named Owen Smith who appealed his charge of having cannabis-infused cookies. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that allowing only access to smoke cannabis via a dried plant, was unconstitutional and went in the face of users rights. Providing a reason to change the laws yet again. Fast forward to 2017, and the Government of Canada proposes the Cannabis Act, that allows the sale, use, and cultivation by individuals 18 years or older. In 2018, the Cannabis Act went into effect; making Canada the 2nd country in the world to legalize Cannabis. And there you have it! Near 100 years of Cannabis history in Canada. I don’t know about you but that was very educational as the author. Since Canada has legalized Cannabis WHO (World Wide Health Organization) has advised dropping Cannabis away from opiates, so perhaps more countries will follow Canada’s wonderful example.