A Timeline To Recreational Marijuana Legalization In Canada
It’s official, Canada has legalized the use of recreational marijuana. The bill went into effect October 17th, 2018, as dispensaries opened their doors to long lines of adoring marijuana fans. Canada is only the second country to fully legalize marijuana behind Uruguay, making the decision one for the history books.
Popular opinion on marijuana has been shifting for some time now, and it seems that worldwide legalization is on the horizon, but Canada’s affair with cannabis hasn’t always been so copacetic. Here’s a timeline of landmark events in Canada’s history with marijuana and its legalization this year.
The 1800’s: Canada Incentivises Hemp
Like all good stories, it starts with hemp. Grown under the French regime, it was the first crop to be subsidized by the Canadian government in an attempt to stimulate the economy and end Canada’s dependence on foreign power. In 1801, the governor of Upper Canada handed out hemp seeds to farmers to try and incentivize industry growth. Canada is still the biggest producer of hemp seeds today.
The early 1900’s: Canada Prohibits Marijuana
In 1923, the government introduced the Act to Prohibit Improper Use of Opium and Other Drugs, including marijuana on the list of illegal “drugs.” This act was the start of a slew of legislation opposing cannabis in Canada. The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act followed in 1929 and warranted harsher penalties for offenders. However, the first seizure of marijuana by officials was made in 1937.
1960’s-70’s: Canadians want Cannabis
The anti-establishment movement of the 60’s spawned the use of many psychedelic substances, including marijuana. Hippies and stoners alike readily used cannabis even though the government continued to maintain strict policies. This resulted in a drastic increase in marijuana-related arrests and convictions. Between 1930 and 1940, there were only 32 marijuana-related convictions, but by 1972 the number of cases had skyrocketed to nearly 12,000.
At this point, the Canadian government could no longer ignore the pervasive effects of cannabis on its citizens, and in 1969, the Royal Commission of Inquiry in the Non-Medical Use of Drugs was formed. This commission was meant to investigate the use of recreational drugs and how best to regulate them. The investigation concluded that the government should focus more on marijuana’s medical use, and scale back on drug-related charges. Unfortunately, the government did not reform their drug policies, and further backlash ensued.
In 1971, a “smoke-in” was staged in Vancouver as a peaceful protest against Canada’s anti-cannabis laws. Things quickly turned violent, as Canadian police on horseback forcefully cleared peaceful protestors with riot batons. Unfortunately, the protest did not insight much attention from the Canadian government, and tensions continued between marijuana friendly citizens and law enforcement.
Early 2000’s: Canada Considers Legalization
In 1996, an epileptic cannabis patient, Terrence Parker was arrested for growing and using marijuana to treat his condition. Parker appealed his arrest to the Canadian Charter of rights and freedom, and the judged ruled in his favor. This ruling prompted the Ontario Court of Appeal to decree that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional in 2000, and highlighted to the Canadian government that cannabis reform was necessary.
In 2001, Canada became the first country to make medical marijuana legal. The Marihuana For Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) were enacted, citing that licensed patients could use and cultivate cannabis for medical purposes. Following this decision, efforts were made to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but the bill was killed in 2003 thanks to pressure from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
2010’s: The Legal Future of Cannabis in Canada
Justin Trudeau wins the 2015 election for Prime Minister and promises to legalize recreational marijuana. In late 2016, the Canadian government updated their medical marijuana guidelines by enacting the Access to Cannabis For Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). This granted physicians the ability to prescribe medical marijuana to patients regardless of a government license.
A poll conducted in 2016 found that 7/10 Canadians were pro-legalization of recreational marijuana. On April 13th, 2017, a bill for legalization was presented to the Canadian parliament that would allow marijuana possession for individuals 18 years and older, with province autonomy for specific regulations of sales and use.
Finally, in June 2018, the bill was passed by both the senate and house of commons, making the sale, cultivation, and possession of recreational marijuana legal in Canada. A true victory in the name of cannabis, hopefully, Canada’s progressive stance will inspire other countries and lead to universal legalization in the near future.
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