Cannabis, also known as marijuana (among numerous other names), is a psychoactive drug that was illegal in Canada from 1923 until 2001. On October 17, 2018, Bill C-45 became law, legalizing and regulating recreational cannabis use and sale across the country. Despite concerns about the drug’s addictiveness and health risks, particularly among children, legalization was supported by a large proportion of Canadians.
Cannabis is a kind of flowering plant that originated in Asia but can be cultivated throughout the world. The plant may be utilized for a variety of purposes, including as a recreational hallucinogen and as a prescription medication, depending on its form. Cannabis leaves and flower buds can be dried and smoked to produce marijuana (known as pot, weed, and grass among other names), which may then be ingested as an oil (termed hash oil), resin (termed hash), or concentrated extracts (termed shatter). In addition to being used as a drug, cannabis can also be vaporized instead of smoked in these forms to produce a vapour rather than smoke. Cannabis may also be utilized in the preparation of meals and beverages.
THC is one of the chemicals produced by cannabis plants. THC is one of several cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. This chemical, along with a slew of other chemicals, gives people a euphoric high. Some individuals find that THC is a calm substance, while others become nervous or paranoid as a result of it. In addition, it enhances sight, taste, sound and smell perception.
CBD, one of the many organic chemicals found in cannabis, does not create a high. CBD is used to treat a range of illnesses, such as epilepsy, anxiety, and inflammation.
Cannabis stems may be used to extract fiber from the plant, which are then utilized for a variety of purposes. Cannabis stem fibers are extracted and used in a variety of applications including rope and textiles.
History of Cannabis Prohibition in Canada
In 1923, under Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, “Cannabis Indica (Indian Hemp) or hasheesh” was added to the Prohibition of the Unlawful Use of Opium and Other Drugs Act. The new legislation combined several drug rules that had previously existed. When cannabis was tacked on to a revised version of the bill — neither by whom it was added nor why it was done so — it became one of three narcotics prohibited under the law. Cannabis was not discussed in Parliament, and lawmakers had minimal knowledge of it. Cannabis was virtually unknown in Canada at the time, and it was not addressed in a series of articles published by Maclean’s magazine in 1920 that highlighted the risks of illicit trade.
The prohibition of cannabis was almost certainly prompted by its appearance at international conferences, according to historian Catherine Carstairs. Cannabis had also been prohibited in ten US states by 1922. According to one government official, “It appears that Col. Sharman [head of the narcotic division] returned from League of Nations meetings convinced that cannabis would soon be controlled internationally. He began planning for it…to be included on Canada’s list of prohibited drugs.”
The government’s decision to prohibit marijuana was influenced by the work of suffragist and judge Emily Murphy, who served as lead plaintiff in the 1929 Person Case. In her book The Black Candle (1922), Murphy discusses cannabis as a “new evil,” noting addicts who develop into “raving maniacs” and are prone to murder or acts of violence. However, there is no clear link between the release of The Black Candle and the enactment of cannabis prohibition in Canada in 1923, according to Carstairs. According to Carstairs, the book was primarily concerned with opium and was not a commercial success. It also made few remarks about cannabis. “There were insinuations in the records that the officials at the division of narcotic control did not think very highly of Emily Murphy… [and] considered her a particularly accurate or valuable source,” she adds.
Cannabis was completely unknown at the time. Cannabis was prohibited, yet few people had ever heard of it. The first cannabis charges didn’t appear until 1937, and police did not start keeping records on seizures until 1932. Between 1923 and 1965, just 270 possession charges were recorded (whether they were accusations or convictions is unclear).
The federal government established a Royal Commission, also known as the Le Dain Commission, in 1969 to examine marijuana use after it began to spread in popularity. The commission’s conclusions stated that prohibition of cannabis was ineffective and expensive for both individuals and society. For a first offense, possessing small amounts of cannabis resulted in a $1,000 fine and six months imprisonment. Recommendations were made for the law to be changed.
For years, the government has ignored cannabis decriminalization and reform.
Cannabis prohibitionists, especially cannabis producers and dealers, have long pushed for the federal government to change marijuana laws. For many years, Marc Emery, a Vancouver-based activist and publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and retail shops, was at the forefront of this movement. In Canada, support for marijuana legalization increased. According to opinion polls, between 40 and 70 percent of Canadians wanted recreational cannabis use to be legalized over the years preceding legalisation. While most people thought that allowing cannabis sales would require government controls on how it is sold or dispensed, the majority believed that doing so would significantly increase usage among persons under the age of 21.
From Prohibition to Legalization
In 2000, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that cannabis prohibition was invalid because it did not include a medical purpose exception. To this end, Health Canada created rules for legal patients to acquire cannabis
In 2003 and 2004, the Liberal administrations of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin attempted to legalize cannabis through legislation — both bills were defeated.
Under the Conservative regime of Stephen Harper, Canada’s cannabis policy was considerably altered, with dealers facing mandatory jail terms and illicit producers receiving minimal penalties. This government shift increased the number of city marijuana arrests.
The Liberal Party said the prohibition of cannabis had failed, that it did not deter young people from using it and put their health at risk, and that it generated many Canadians with criminal records. The Liberal Party previously claimed that criminal prosecutions relating to cannabis are expensive and contribute to organized crime’s coffers.
The Canadian government announced in 2015 that it intended to legalize cannabis consumption and regulate the trade of cannabis. In June 2016, the Trudeau administration established the Task Force on Marijuana Regulation and Legalization, which was led by Anne McLellan, a former health and justice minister. Canada’s federal government conducted public hearings with provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous governments as well as met with officials from other countries.
The government claimed that cannabis prohibition had failed, that it did not prevent kids from using it, and that this put their health in danger. As a result of cannabis prohibition, many Canadians have damaged records.
The British government rejected the notion of decriminalizing cannabis. If you substitute criminal penalties with fines or other lesser punishments, as this approach would have required, you preserve cannabis illegal while still replacing illicit penalties with fines or other minor punishments. It also ruled out decriminalizing cannabis before legalization, stating that doing so would “provide a green light” to black market vendors to sell it openly.
Cannabis was classified as a controlled substance in Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act until October 17, 2018. People discovered in unlawful possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis (without a medical exemption) were fined between $1,000 and $10,000 and imprisoned for up to six months. Trafficking and producing cannabis were considered more serious criminal offenses. In 2017, almost 48,000 drug infractions involving the possession and/or trafficking, production and distribution of cannabis were reported in Canada.
Since its beginnings, the cannabis trade in Canada has attracted a lot of criticism. According to the Task Force on Marijuana Regulation and Legalization, organized crime earns $7 billion per year from it.
Cannabis Prohibition and Race
“One of society’s major problems is the difference and disproportionality in enforcement of these laws’ impact on minority communities, Aboriginal communities, and those living in our most vulnerable areas.” Bill Blair, a former Toronto Police Chief (2005-2015) and a Liberal MP since 2015, stated this in February 2016 while discussing one of the reasons why the federal government wanted to legalize cannabis.
Despite the fact that police do not track race in the same way, numerous research have shown that Indigenous, Black, and Asian Canadians are overrepresented when it comes to drug arrests and charges. In 2017, The Toronto Star reviewed ten years (2003–13) of Toronto Police data and determined that black individuals with no prior convictions were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white individuals with no criminal history. Cannabis usage rates were roughly equal for both blacks and whites.)
While the law does not provide amnesty for prior cannabis possession or trafficking convictions when cannabis was legalized in 2018, the Canadian government announced on the day of legalization that it would introduce new legislation allowing individuals convicted of “simple possession” to apply for a pardon without paying a fee or waiting period. Pardons are time-consuming and take many years to finish. It’s challenging to obtain employment and travel internationally with a criminal history. A pardon is a formal document from the Canadian Police Information Centre that removes a criminal record. The government, on the other hand, made no promise to expunge convictions for marijuana-related activities, which would remove any link to cannabis offenses from their records.
Cannabis Legalization in Canada
The Cannabis Act, also known as Bill C-45, passed the House of Commons in Canada on April 13, 2017 to legalize and regulate cannabis production and trade. On June 21, 2018, Her Majesty the Queen gave royal assent to the bill. The new legislation made Canada the second country in the world to legalize marijuana after Uruguay. By 2018, recreational marijuana was permitted for adults in nine U.S. states as well as Washington DC, while 30 states had established medical marijuana programs.
Cannabis may now be purchased through mail order or provincially authorized retailers in Canada, as the Cannabis Act took effect on October 17th, 2018. Adults can legally grow up to four marijuana plants at home and possess 30 grams of dried cannabis (or the equivalent amount in non-dried form) in public under the law. The sale of cannabis to individuals under the age of 19 is now regarded as a felony and has penalties ranging from 14 years in prison to life imprisonment. It also bars unlicensed producers, vendors, and dealers from selling “illicit” cannabis.
The Act did not allow the sale of edibles in edible forms, such as baked goods or alcoholic beverages, or cannabis concentrates. On October 17, 2019, rules governing the sale of edibles, extracts, and topicals went into effect. They will be made available before the end of December. Cannabis products that include alcohol, cigarettes, or nicotine will be prohibited.
The rules and regulations of the cannabis industry are set by the government. The brand name and logo are the only additional pictures allowed on each package, according to government standards. Each box must contain a specific cannabis sign, a health warning, and THC concentration levels, among other things.
The government also established the cannabis tax rate, which will be split between the federal and provincial governments (see Taxation in Canada).
In April 2017, the federal government enacted Bill C-46, which received royal assent on June 21, 2018. The legislation extended police powers to conduct random roadside Breathalyzer tests for alcohol and saliva tests for drugs, including THC, including THC blood concentration limits for drivers.
Canada’s medical marijuana system was not affected by the country’s new recreational cannabis laws. Canadians can lawfully obtain marijuana under Health Canada regulations that were implemented in 2001. Cannabis has a variety of medicinal applications, including nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy and pain alleviation.
As of 2016, approximately 70,000 Canadians were registered as medical-marijuana patients with their doctor. Card-carrying users can grow marijuana for personal medical use or buy it from one of about 116 licensed producers and have it delivered to them for medicinal purposes.
Risks and Regulation
The federal government established a legal framework for the sale and consumption of marijuana in 2018, create product safety and quality norms, and discourage illicit trade. The system was based on current alcohol and tobacco rules, which are intended to decrease or eliminate cigarette use among Canadians while also encouraging responsible drinking among adults. In both situations, the government is trying to prevent young people from using illegal narcotics.
Cannabis is an illegal drug in the United States. As a result, there has been a lot of tension between states and their cannabis industries as well as with the federal government over the legality of marijuana. In “high-risk” circumstances (such as driving), the Controlled Substances Act forbids sale and possession of marijuana by individuals under the age of 18, while also recommending a minimum age for possession at 18 years — allowing states to raise it if they choose.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), which is made up of Canada’s physicians, urged for the prohibition of cannabis for those under the age of 21 as well as its confinement to those under the age of 25. In addition, the CMA requested that any legal framework be phased in gradually, perhaps with small-scale trials taking place across the country.
Cannabis consumption may have a negative influence on the developing brains of adolescents. According to research conducted by the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, chronic cannabis use (especially if started in adolescence) has been linked to memory, thinking, and attention issues. It might also increase the risk of schizophrenia, sadness, anxiety, and lung cancer if smoked.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal legislation that protects the privacy of children on the internet. It does not allow cannabis or its products to be advertised or marketed in any way that appeals to “glamour, fun, excitement, vitality, danger, or daring,” and celebrities are not permitted to promote them. Cannabis businesses may not financially support projects or activities.
However, the Cannabis Act does not define maximum THC potency levels. According to studies, current THC concentrations are in the range of 12 to 15 percent—up from 3% in the 1980s. Some cannabis-based products, such as shatter, can have a THC concentration of up to 80 or 90 per cent. According on a 2016 US Surgeon General’s report, an increase in cannabis use pattern including its addictiveness due to increased product potency is posing a health risk for users.
Pardons for Past Convictions
There have been numerous calls for the government, as well as cannabis legalization, to pardon or suspend Canadians’ cannabis-related convictions. These sentences limit their job prospects and volunteer opportunities. According to one study, between 500,000 and one million Canadians may have a criminal record for cannabis possession. In general amnesty, the administration stated that it is looking at alternatives for “lesser” infractions.
In October 2018, the government announced that it would introduce new legislation allowing people who were previously charged with “simple possession” to apply for a pardon without charge or delay. Pardons are generally costly and can take years to complete. Only an expungement may fully remove a past conviction from one’s record, as only an expungement can totally erase a prior conviction from one’s record. The government did not promise to erase old cannabis convictions from individuals’ records.
International Drug Treaties and Conventions
Canada has signed three intergovernmental treaties in support of the UN’s efforts to combat narcotic drug abuse: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Trafficking In Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances.
The court’s conclusions have had a significant influence on the global drug policy. Canada is compelled by these treaties to penalize the substances listed above, including cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. The prohibition of cannabis goes against the principle of the drug conventions, which state that member nations should not request a narcotic be pulled from the prohibited list.
The UN International Control Board has branded a handful of nations that have legalized marijuana as in violation of international treaties.
The Canadian government has stated that it will not withdraw from these agreements.