Why is Marijuana Illegal?
By many accounts, the “war on drugs” mentality in Canada began with the release of a book called The Black Candle in 1922. Written by Emily F. Murphy under the pen name “Janey Canuck”, the book portrayed widespread drug abuse as a serious problem across the nation and called for law enforcement to address the issue of addiction.
While the main targets of Murphy’s attack were opium, cocaine, and pharmaceuticals, she referred to Marijuana as “the new menace.” The book also served as a vicious diatribe of Chinese immigrants who Murphy saw as perpetuating and being responsible for the drug problem. Their drug use, she argued, would be a danger to white women particularly. It was not long before Cannabis was added to the Confidential Restricted List in 1923 under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill when the government introduced the Act to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and other Drugs.
Another reason for Cannabis being added to this list was Canada’s role in international drug conferences where the drug was being discussed at length. Despite criminalization beginning in the 1920s, the first police seizures for cannabis did not occur until the late 1930s and between 1946-1961 only 2% of drug arrests in Canada were over Cannabis. For medical purposes, Cannabis regulation began in July of 2001 when Health Canada laid out conditions under which doctors could prescribe it to patients. They defined two categories. Category 1 included prescriptions for severe pain, persistent muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or disease, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, nausea related to HIV/AIDS, arthritis and seizures from epilepsy. Category 2 covered debilitating medical symptoms from diseases not specified in category one. In recent history, there have been many failed attempts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. In May 2003, the Canadian Liberal government lead by Jean Chretien tried to pass a law that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of Cannabis for the purposes of personal use. Under the proposed legislation, possession of under 15g would be punishable by a fine, and 15-30g could lead to being ticketed and or arrested with criminal charges at the discretion of the officer. The bill also intended to lessen charges for the cultivation of Marijuana plants. Alas, it never passed and its death in parliament is said to be a result of pressure from the American government’s Drug Enforcement Administration which threatened to slow down border traffic with increased Cannabis searches. The next Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin tried to introduce an identical bill in November 2004 but was also unsuccessful. Once the Conservatives won in 2006, it was not resurrected. At present time, Cannabis legalization is a key component of Justin Trudeau’s liberal platform and is expected to be enacted in 2018.Back To FAQ