Something interesting has happened in the past ten years or so. Marijuana, once a demonized pariah on society that would bring down the very fabric of our way of life, has been legal since 2018 in Canada and has even started to become legal in a few states south of the border. It’s almost certain that the United States will follow our lead and legalize it nationwide before too much longer. After decades of fearmongering, pot won the war on drugs, and it wasn’t even a close fight. Mainstream acceptance of the devil’s lettuce has only increased, and will likely continue to do so until the overwhelming majority of people consider it to be in the same league as alcohol.
The history of how pot went from a mark of moral degradation to something you can casually enjoy without legal repercussions is a fascinating one. While you could stop reading this article right now and pop on over to a Vancouver pot shop to pick up whatever you may need (a far cry more convenient than relying on an under the table dealer), once upon a time you would be jailed for being around someone who smoked it. In his article we’ll explore what exactly happened to cause such a massive cultural shift in favor of everyone’s favorite little green friend.
From Cash Crop to Criminality
Marijuana hasn’t always been a social pariah. In the earliest days of French colonialism in the country. During the 18th and 19th centuries, hemp was an important crop in both Canada and the United States due to its bountiful harvest potential and robust variety as a resource. Hemp fibers are strong and watertight, and were used to make everything from clothing and rope in the early days to canvas bags and parachutes for World War I. Hemp was also useful for foodstuffs, as the seeds were both nutritious on their own and as ground meal for other dishes. While the plant’s capacity as a recreational drug was well known, it was the industrial and agricultural benefit to cannabis that made it a fundamental part of society.
Canada followed the United States in moral panic over the intoxicating effects during the turn of the 20th century. This was mostly driven by cotton and other textile barons who wanted to remove hemp from the market. Beginning in the 1910s and 1920s politicians and newspapers began to spread fear over cannabis, culminating in the American film Reefer Madness in 1936. There was a racial element to the moral panic, as you can see here, due to the association the moral guardians of the day made between smoking pot and both immigrants and black people. Tying fear of cannabis to deeply ingrained racism was a death knell for the industry. In 1938 cannabis was illegalized in Canada, effectively killing the hemp industry.
The Reefer Redemption
For several decades that was the way of things. Cannabis use in Canada was low until the 1960s, where it became popular among college students and free spirits. This resurgence in popularity came hand in hand with a growing distaste for general authoritarianism, another trait shared by our American neighbors to the south in that period. The fastest way to learn what is and isn’t true about something is to have experience with it, and more and more people began to understand that marijuana wasn’t the evil drug it had been made out to be – and, that it had certain medical properties.
The push began among those in the know for legalization, particularly for medical purposes. Over time, the shocking pearl clutching over weed mellowed out into a cultural tolerance, and finally, acceptance. Medical concessions were made in 2001, allowing those who suffered certain problems to obtain a license to use cannabis to treat those problems. Finally, after more exposure to the public to the idea, cannabis was made completely legal on June 1, 2018. Wikipedia is a great resource to learn more, which you can do at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_Canada. It was a long road, but now it’s legal for anyone over 18 to have up to 30 grams and enjoy it on a recreational basis.