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Introduction of hemp into Canada

While hemp (marijuana
or cannabis fiber) has been used for nearly 4000 years as the main material in clothing,
paper, rope, and other textiles, as well as for medicinal purposes, it is not
until the early 1600s that we see hemp production introduced to Canada. During
the rise of Mercantilism, hemp was an export to the colonial empire for use in
naval sails. Hemp production was beneficial for the colony as well because they
would use hemp to make clothing and rope. Hemp was the first crop to ever be
subsidized under the French regime in Eastern Canada (Spicer. 2002. History of
Cannabis in North America.). The colonial powers would promote hemp cultivation
using incentives and bounties for growers but also some penalties to colonists
that did not produce hemp (Green & Miller, 1975, p.498). “In 1801, the
Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada distributed hemp seeds to farmers” (Spicer.

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2002. History of Cannabis in North America.). However, by 19th century cannabis fiber
was no longer a viable crop given that cotton production was on the rise and proved
to be less labor intensive. During the 1930s the farming of hemp died out in
Canada. A law created in 1938 under the Opium and Narcotics Act prohibited the
production of hemp and made the unauthorized farming of the cannabis plant
illegal. In the last 2 years we have seen the steps towards marijuana
legalization for recreational purposes. Marijuana developed into the larger
social issue we see today through many routes; beginning primarily as a racist
agenda. With legalization soon on the way hopefully we are able to shift the majority
views on marijuana.





Medical history

Use of marijuana
for its medicinal purposes was limited in Canada. Cannabinoids were used in
over the counter medication until 1939 and prescription use until 1954. (Green
& Miller, 1975, p.498). Cannabis was used to treat a myriad of physical
conditions such as rabies, epilepsy and sometimes as a preference over opium
for pain relief as the effects were less intense (Spicer. 2002. History of
Cannabis in North America.). Also in the 1900s Cannabis again fell out of favor
in medicinal use as well, as the stability and potency were unpredictable and
variable and as it couldn’t be administered by injection for quicker pain
relief (Spicer. 2002. History of Cannabis in North America.).  It was not until 2001 that we saw marijuana
approved for legal access as medication for Canadian patients (The Canadian
press, 2014, A timeline of some significant events in the history of marijuana
in Canada).


Recreational history

While there are
no reliable accounts of the recreational use of cannabis pre 1930s “The Increasing
Menace of Marihuana” (Green & Miller, 1975, p.498). Published by the
Canadian medical association in 1934, cites increased use among citizens across
Canada. Nearly 10 years after the initial creation of the anti-marijuana laws, recreational
use of marijuana is currently coming under public scrutiny. Nearly forty years after
laws prohibiting marijuana use came into effect, we begin to actually see the
anti-marijuana laws become enforced. In 1962 the RCMP reported that there were
20 cases related to marijuana, while in 1968 the total cases rose to 2,300 and
during 1972 there was a total of 12,000 marijuana related convictions (Green
& Miller, 1975, p.499). In recent history (1977-2013) 50% or more of all drug related reports
have been related to marijuana. The number of reported drug offences related to
marijuana peaked during 1981 and reached an all-time low in 1991. This all-time
low is largely due to the decrease in possession charges through the 80s which
is believed to have been caused by the implementation of the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms which introduced protection against unreasonable
searches and seizures by police (Cotter, Jacob Greenland, and Maisie Karam,
2013, sect.1). With an arrest rate continuing to increase for marijuana related
charges and data from 2011 showing that 12.6% of the adult population having
used cannabis within the last year while youth (15-25) was 26.5% it is clear
that the war on drugs is not effective, and Canada needs to take a different
approach (Ducatti,
2012, Pg. 96). Canadian parliament has decided to shift its stance on recreational
marijuana and distribute and control it themselves under federal and provincial
jurisdictions and legislation.


Creation of anti-marijuana laws

While there are
different accounts on why Canada created laws making cannabis illegal, the laws
were enacted in 1923. Some believe that this was because of Emily Murphy’s 1922
description of marijuana users: “While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable
to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most
savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility”
(Murphy, 1922, pg. 333) and finishing her description by stating that prolonged
use of this drug will result in an untimely death of the user. By the next year,
with no scientific evidence, little to no deliberation in the house of commons,
and no explanation; “Indian Hemp” was added to opium and narcotic drug act in
1923 (Green & Miller, 1975, pg.499).


The second theory
is that Canada put marijuana on its radar following the international meeting
of the ‘Hague Opium Conference’ of 1911-1912 in which there was a call for
scientific research into “Indian hemp”. By 1922 a number of U.S. states had
prohibited marijuana and Canada followed suit, in the view of the international
world. (Carstairs. 2000. Pg. 49). In my belief Globalization was a contributing factor to
Canada’s marijuana laws; Canada might not have seen any anti-marijuana laws if
it was not participating in international conferences or trying to make its
laws similar to those of the United States.


reason for public push for anti-drug laws

The push from the
Canadian public towards the government to create anti-drug laws was due to the prejudice
views against the Chinese. The public saw this as a way in which they could stop
immigration from China. The Chinese were framed to be the drug distributors
plaguing the white culture with their opium dens. As Catherine Carstairs states
in her 2006 book ‘Jailed for Possession: Illegal Drug Use, Regulation, and
Power in Canada, 1920-1961’; From newspapers, women groups, and even church
congregations, joined forces to eradicate opium. They blamed Chinese -Canadians
for “the degradation of white youth through drugs and demanded harsh new drug
legislation, as well as the total prohibition of Chinese immigration.” (Carstairs.

2006. Pg. 19-20) The public push towards the government to create anti-drug
laws demonstrates a larger underlying social issue of the prejudice views held
in Canada in the 1920’s





Both sides of the legalization today


While Canada is going ahead with legalization, some of the
public remains uneasy. A serious concern that is presented is driving while
under the influence of marijuana. Fatalities involving drivers under the influence
of marijuana has been on the rise since the legalization in Colorado and is
feared that the same will happen here in Canada. However, marijuana not having
a standard level of testing like alcohol could also be reason we are seeing
this increase. THC- the active ingredient Marijuana- remains in ones system for
days and sometimes weeks after use. This could also be a cause for the increase
in THC positive test for fatal collisions in Colorado.  “Therefore,
Colorado may have an increased number of drivers, in general, who were using
marijuana, not just an increase in the proportion who were involved in fatal
motor vehicle crashes.” (Lake & Kerr, 2016).

Furthermore, the cognitive
research on how marijuana does affect your driving has not been well developed.

While driving under the influence does cause an increased risk of a motor
vehicle accident, it is not understood to what extent; however, it is aware
that the risk is not as high as impaired driving under the influence of
alcohol. (Crépault, 2014, Pg.3) Further research of this is still needed to
fully understand the effect of marijuana impairment while driving. In preparation
for legalization, the Canadian government has proposed bills to toughen their
legislation on driving while under the influence of marijuana. The proposed
bill will see that someone who has 5 Nanograms or greater per 100 milliliters
of blood of THC in their system will be charged with impaired driving. Someone
who has between 2.5 and 5 nanograms will see a summary conviction. There will
also be a hybrid offence, where if an individual has more than 2.5 nanograms of
THC and 50 milligrams of alcohol they will as well be charged for impaired
driving. The Canadian government is taking steps towards making sure the roads
will be safe for when legalization comes into effect. (Department of justice,
2017, Blood Drug Concentration Regulations)


Marijuana affecting the
developing brain is another major concern to those against the use of
marijuana. With legalization the belief is that the drug will be more readily
available and easier to access for youth consumption. However, it is reported
that over half of youth say that marijuana is currently easily accessible.

Which is the highest of any developed nation. Due to these issues legalization
may be favorable to take/lessen the availability to youth in Canada. (Lake & Kerr, 2016). Studies find that marijuana may increase and
heighten schizophrenia in those pre conditioned. New studies are showing that
the marijuana use might actually be because of this predisposition to
schizophrenia and not heighten it. (Lake
& Kerr, 2016). A 4-year longitudinal study
of marijuana use predictions from adolescents at age 12 and then tested again
at age 16 “These findings suggest that
structural abnormalities in the orbitofrontal cortex might contribute to risk
for cannabis exposure.” (Cheetham, et al., 2012). This study further
shows support for the preconditioned state of an adolescent brain is what
predicts marijuana use, and that marijuana does not create/damage or inhibit
brain development. While research in the field of marijuana, prolonged use and the
effects of youth cognition because of use in adolescence is still very new, any
research that does come out should be taken seriously especially when it is in
reference to the younger members of society. While taking these research
findings seriously, we should still take into account that there will be lots
of other research done in the coming years, and it will be interesting and
exciting to see Canada at the forefront of these studies.


A third concern
that the anti-drug supporter address is what is Canada going to do about the
U.N. drug control conventions they are involved in. “For
decades, the world has collectively prohibited or controlled access to some
drugs including marijuana through three international treaties: the 1961 Single
Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances,
and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances.” (Hoffman & Habibi, 2016).

Canada faces a struggle here in terms of legally legalizing marijuana in the
international view. Canada shouldn’t ignore the international treaties it has
agreed to take part in as this could decrease the international image of
Canada. If Canada would like to legalize marijuana properly then there are 3
ways the government can go about this; changing the constitution to make the
marijuana consumption a right to citizens, convincing enough countries to allow
Canada to revise the drug control conventions or to formally withdraw from the
conventions all together. “Convincing the 32 countries with death
penalties for drug smuggling to reconsider the strict UN drug-control treaties
seems as politically possible as adding a constitutional right to smoke
marijuana into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” (Hoffman & Habibi, 2016). Realistically Canada is
left with one option to legalize marijuana; to withdraw from the conventions
all together. In doing so Canada can uphold a positive international spotlight
by not disobeying any laws. Canada could also possibly bring about reform and
be a main advisor to the drug control conventions once we have legalization
completely figured out and flowing smoothly.




With legalization, the belief
is that the drug will be more readily available and easier to access for youth
consumption. However, it is reported that over half of youth say that marijuana
is currently easily accessible. Which is the highest of any developed nation.

Due to these issues legalization may be favorable to take/lessen the
availability to youth in Canada. (Lake
& Kerr, 2016). Taxation and the revenue
that is excepted to be generated by legalization will go to benefit Canada. Further,
taking away the revenue from the black-market trade as well as insuring safety precautions
for Canadian citizens will benefit the Canadian society as a whole.


Legal Marijuana
is estimated to be as high as a 10-billion-dollar business in Canada. Mohammad
Hajizadeh estimates that Canada will be collecting about 50% of the actual 10
billion (Legalizing and Regulating Marijuana in Canada: Review of Potential Economic,
Social, and Health Impacts). While other figures suggest this number will be
closer to 2 billion instead of 5 billion. Either way “Stephen T. Easton (2004)
estimates the retail price of a marijuana cigarette to be approximately $8.60
while costing around $1.50 to produce” (Ducatti, 2012, Pg. 97). Meaning
there is a very large margin to be able to tax marijuana while still keeping it
in competitive pricing with the black market. Not only will Canada see an
influx in tax revenue there is the potential that legalization can cut the
costs of marijuana police enforcement. It is estimated that Canada spends about
1 billion dollars on cannabis enforcement. (Crépault, 2014, pg.6). With this
now estimated surplus of close to 6-billion-dollars, Canada can spend the money
on furthering research into marijuana, not only the harmful outcomes but the
beneficial ones as well; allowing us to be the leaders in marijuana research.

This money can also be distributed to other Drug task forces that are fighting
against more harmful drugs such as the opiate crisis Canada is currently
seeing, as well as funding improved drug rehabilitation and education. The
economic growth fueled by the cannabis industry will be very beneficial for


If this money is
not being collected by the government then the money is just being fed into the
black market. Marijuana is the second most used substance in Canada behind
liquor; currently all of this money is being used to fuel crime. Taking the
power away from criminals of distributing the second most used substance in our
nation will decrease crime rate as whole. (Hajizadeh, 2016). Taking away this
power from the black market will also allow for proper regulation and control
to ensure that the consumer is fully aware of what they are consuming.

Eliminating the social issue of dealing with criminals to obtain marijuana with
the uncertainty of potency or effects that strain will have. Further,
eliminating the issue of having to deal with a criminal who may be involved in
other, more severe criminal activity.


While most Canadians may not see the
legalization of marijuana as a social issue, it very much is. Beginning with
the racist agenda of the original drug laws being enacted to protect white
society against the Asians, resulting in penalties that were more than likely a
little too stringent for marijuana. In result the penalties for marijuana has
forced us to fund billions of dollars in enforcing and incarcerating marijuana
offenders.  Not only do we see the
legalization of marijuana touching on social issues of racism, the prison
system, but as well as having to deal with black market goods. Marijuana
legalization in Canada will be a spotlight for many other countries to build
their legislation on. If we here in Canada are able to address the issues of
youth use causing cognitive issues, impaired driving and further research
studies of long term marijuana use, Canada can be on the forefront, and
platform for many other nations to build off of. If Canada addresses these
issues properly, even having to leave 3 drug conventions of the U.N., the
reform that can be brought to the U.N.’s conventions in respect to marijuana
use could be beneficial for the entire globe. The benefits of increased tax
revenue creating a boost to our economy, and taking away a large portion of the
black market will be very beneficial for the Canada as a whole. Canada is about
to explore a largely unexplored market but only the time will tell if it will
be damaging to society, or if Canada will be the leader and example for the
rest of the worlds marijuana reform. If the latter of the two options is true
then Canada’s economy could explode being the world leader in marijuana;
however as stated previously, only time will tell.

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