Just a month away from legalization of recreational cannabis, this infographic shows the History of Marijuana in Canada, answering pressing questions like “Why is marijuana illegal?”, and “when did marijuana prohibition start?”.
For accessibility purposes, we have provided the infographic transcription just below the image.
History of Marijuana in Canada
1606 – Hemp was planted for the first time in Canada, in Port Royal (Nova Scotia). France required that the colonies grew hemp crops to provide for the French Navy.
1800s – Cannabis is commonly used in Canada (and in countries like England and the United States) as medication.
1922 – Emily Murphy publishes her book The Black Candle, which included a chapter titled “Marahuana: A New Menace” denouncing the “risks” of cannabis. The publishing of The Black Candle is commonly seen as a primary reason prohibition began the following year.
When was marijuana made illegal?
1923 – Parliament outlaws cannabis through the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, along with heroin and codeine. Canada was one of the first countries to make marijuana illegal.
1937 – Canadian Police seize marijuana for the very first time. Cannabis did not receive much attention from the authorities in Canada until the late 1930s.
1938 – the Commercial cultivation of hemp also becomes illegal.
1960s – Cannabis starts to become more popular with Canadians. The number of arrests for cannabis possession skyrockets– from only 25 records in between 1930-1946, to 2,300 cases in 1968.
1969 – The Royal Commission of Inquiry in the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, informally known as the Le Dain Commission, starts to investigate the non-medical use of cannabis.
1971 – The first “smoke-in” protest on Vancouver’s drug policies happens in Gastown. What started as a peaceful civil act ended in chaos – and would be later known as “The Gastown Riot”.
The Road to Legalization
1972 – The Le Dain Commission report recommends that criminal penalties for cannabis possession should be dropped, but no changes are made to the legislation. In the same year, the RCMP reports a record number of 12k arrests for marijuana possession.
2000 – In the R. v. Parker case, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled that prohibition of marijuana possession for medical uses infringed on Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms after an epileptic patient was charged with possession and cultivation.
2001 – The Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) was enacted, making Canada the first country to legalize medical cannabis.
2015 –Justin Trudeau is elected Prime Minister with recreational cannabis legalization as part of his political platform.
2016 – The Government of Canada starts to work on legislation to regulate the use, production, and sales of recreational Cannabis.
2017 – Bill C-45, also known as Cannabis Act, is passed by the House of Commons. Provincial Governments start to draw their regulations for Cannabis Legalization. The first license for distribution of recreational cannabis was awarded.
2018 – Bill C-45 passes the Senate and receives Royal Assent in June, setting October 17, 2018, as the date for the legalization of recreational cannabis, 2018. Canada is the second country to legalize recreational cannabis, after Uruguay.
The Globe and Mail. A Biography of Cannabis. July 2018.
CBC News. Marijuana was Criminalized in 1923, but why?. May 2014.
CanLII. R. v. Parker, 2000 CanLII 5762 (ON CA). July 2000.
Sins of The City: Vancouver Police Museum & Archives. The Gastown Riots of 1971. April 2017.
Parliament of Canada. Bill C-45 (Royal Assent). June 2018.