We’ve come a long way since October 2018 when marijuana became legal on the national level. While our neighbours to the south work on legalizing it state by state, thanks to the Canadian federal government, we can enjoy dispensaries seemingly on every street corner. How did we get here?
Once Upon A Time…
The prohibition movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was not limited to alcohol. A number of factors caused this movement to fail, such as poor enforcement and a lack of communication between the municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Cannabis was formally added to the Schedule of the Opium and Narcotic Control Act in 1923 and it became prohibited to cultivate cannabis under this act in 1938.
In spite of its illegality, cannabis was used throughout Canada long before it became regulated by the government. The Conservative and Liberal governments shared alternating views on how it should be regulated and for which reasons. The Chrétien and Martin governments attempted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in the early 2000s, but both proposed bills failed to pass. On the other hand, Stephen Harper proposed mandatory one-year prison sentences for weed dealers.
Interestingly, the United States were a step ahead of Canada in terms of legalizing weed for medical use. The medical value of marijuana was identified by the state of New Mexico in 1978. Nearly 20 years later, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. Access to medical marijuana slowly became available to Canadians on a case-by-case basis.
A poll conducted in June of 2016 showed that 7 out of 10 Canadians believed recreational weed should not be criminalized, with just over 40% of those polled in explicit support of legalization. An “overwhelming percentage” held the opinion that regulation should be the federal government’s responsibility. The people’s message was clear.
Recreational Cannabis Today
Under the Trudeau government, the Cannabis Act was passed in June of 2018, making history as Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis after Uruguay. Appropriate time was given for the provinces to prepare for the change in regulation, and the Act took effect in autumn that same year.
The full title of the Cannabis Act reflects the intentions of those who enacted it: “An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.” Out with the old and in with the new, basically.
The next time you light a bowl with your buddies, take a moment to appreciate the long and storied history of Canadian cannabis.