It’s official, as of October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada. The struggle to get here has been an uphill journey with many setbacks, adjustments, and even a prohibition.
To celebrate, we’re taking a look back on Canada’s history with the plant.
1801: Where it all began. Hemp seeds were distributed to Canadian farmers by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. It was his hope that this would help stimulate the industry in his country.
1822: Upper Canada’s provincial parliament allocated a lump of money for machinery that would process hemp and (they hoped) incentivize hemp producers.
1917: A new machine was invented, which would make is easier to separate hemp fibre. Unfortunately, hemp production decreased majorly while cotton production took off as it was a less labour-intensive process.
1923: Cannabis became illegal in Canada. The Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill introduced the Act to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and Other Drugs. They also added opium, cocaine and morphine to the list of drugs.
1962: Cannabis was becoming far more popular by this point. The number of cannabis-related arrests increased dramatically – 25 convictions between the years 1930 – 1946, compared to 20 cases in 1962 alone.
1968: Cannabis convictions continued to escalate (up to 2300, to be exact). Plant use increased among college students and hippie culture, specifically.
1969: The Canadian government needed a way to investigate the recreational uses of cannabis throughout the country, so they created the Royal Commission of Inquiry in the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, known as the Le Dain Commission.
1971: The Gastown Riot. Hundreds of peaceful protestors gathered in Gastown, Vancouver to form the first pro-cannabis smoke-in. They were forcefully removed by police officers on horseback.
1972: The Le Dain Commission (see 1969 for a refresh) released a report on cannabis. The report suggested that federal government should remove criminal penalties for both possession and use of the plant. Unfortunately, no steps were taken to decriminalize.
1996: Terrance Parker, one of the first major cannabis advocates, was arrested for possession, cultivation and trafficking. He was caught growing cannabis and using it to relieve his epileptic seizures. Parker appealed to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2000: 4 years later, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the prohibition of cannabis use infringed on Terrance Parker’s right to life, liberty and security, therefor rendering cannabis prohibition unconstitutional.
2001: The first rendition of Canada’s medical cannabis law. The Marihuana for Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) was released, allowing licensed patients to grow their own cannabis or access it from licensed growers.
2003: Jean Chrétien (Liberal), put forth the first federal cannabis decriminalization measure. The measure reduced cannabis possession of up to 15 grams to a civil fine. Unfortunately, the bill died.
2004: Paul Martin (minority Liberal) introduced a decriminalization measure identical to that of Chrétien, but Martin’s government was defeated, resulting in the death of the bill.
2006: Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a national anti-drug strategy which imposed mandatory prison sentences on cannabis dealers. Additionally, anyone growing more than 500 plants would face a sentence of 2 years minimum. Maximum penalties increased from 7 to 14 years in prison.
2011: Justice Donald Taliano ruled that the MMAR (see year 2001), as well as the prohibitions against the possession and production of cannabis were constitutionally invalid. He ordered the government to fix the program immediately.
2013: The Marijuana for Medical Purpose Regulations (MMPR) was implemented. This created a commercially licensed industry for cannabis production and distribution.
2015: Cannabis baker Owen Smith was charged with possession of infused cookies. After he appealed the charge, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that restricting legal access to only dried flower violated the rights of medical cannabis patients. Therefore, licensed producers could now produce oils as well as flower. Additionally, medical patients were allowed to possess and alter different forms of cannabis.
2016: The MMPR (see year 2013) was challenged by Neil Allard for suspending personal production licenses from medical patients, requiring them to access the plant solely through licensed producers. The Federal Court of Canada revised the law again, releasing the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
2017: The Government of Canada proposed the Cannabis Act, an Act that would legalize possession, use, cultivation and purchase of limited amounts of the plant by adults 19 years and older.
2018: The Cannabis Act officially goes into effect, legalizing for adult recreational use in Canada.
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