The Cannabis Act

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Sittin’ downtown in a railway station

One toke over the line.

Brewer and Shipley

 

Things surely change. Or at least circle back to where they first started. Of course, I refer to the Cannabis Act, which allows the legal use of marijuana subject to various conditions and regulations. I suggest reading the act before celebrating any newfound freedoms since you need to focus. Speaking of which, this now allows the federal government to focus its legislative powers against an even more addictive, notorious and dangerous drug. Sugar.

 

How will cannabis legalization affect Canadian Society? Recent stats suggest that five million Canadians use cannabis at least once a month. We could expect perhaps a 20% increase after legalization.  This column intends to examine this question over a four part series, more or less depending upon how the home grow-op works out. However, by maintaining focus, we intend to cover the history, the legislation, the potential impacts, and some guessing on what the future might hold.

 

Firstly, how did most of us become so conservative (old-fogie)? Cannabis can be found in various forms throughout various millennia. Cannabis use dates back to at least the third millennium BCE when the plant was valued for its use for fiber, food, medicine and for its psychoactive properties in recreation and religion. Hemp fibers could be found in 10,000-year-old Chinese pottery. For the record, industrial hemp contains far less of the psychoactive drug THC. So like members of the senate, cannabis has been around for a while.

 

In Canada, drug regulation started back in 1908. Here Mackenzie King, then DM of Labour, produced a report, which culminated in the Opium Act. This same King instead partook in spiritualism and mediums to stay in contact with the deceased. Once again showing that drugs were not required for mind-expanding exercises.

 

Shortly after this, a type of moral panic began. Emily Murphy contributed to this panic somewhat through her writing The Black Candle. Some of her writings under the pen name Janey Canuck made their way into McLean’s. Including some dubious stereotypes and questionable anecdotes, she pushed for the cannabis ban. Under the chapter “Marahuna-A New Menace” she points out there are three ways out from the regency of this addiction:

“1st-Insanity, 2nd-Death, 3rd-Abandonment. This is assuredly a direful trinity…”

 

She leaves us on the triceratop’s three-pointed horned dilemma. We would only point out that this appears to be have been written before Canada imported the letter ‘J’ from other members of the commonwealth, and the title bears a striking IP infringement by a later contender…Lucas’ “The Phantom Menace”. We assume no cause of action exists since at least 20 years have passed since its release. Mind you, some still harbour the thought of a legal process to eliminate Jar Jar Binks.

 

Other historians such as Catherine Carstairs question Murphy’s ‘contribution’ towards the war on drugs. More than likely the prohibition came from when the Director of the Federal Division of Narcotic Control returned from the discussion for control of the drug at the League of Nations. This should not be confused with the DC Justice League. Although those superheroes would have a tough time since the drug use problem would appear to be so diffuse. Beyond Superman. Perhaps Wonder Woman?

 

Cannabis finally made the big leagues by being included on the restricted list with the 1923 Narcotics Drug Act. As with all legislation, you would think that this then solved the problem, but use of cannabis continued to grow along with the number of prosecutions.

 

Of course, no discussion of an ethical dilemma would be complete without acknowledging “Tell Your Children!”, or even more regretfully known as “Reefer Madness”. Produced by a church group in 1936 as a morality fable, Dwain Esper purchased the film, and by adding some additional salacious scenes, showed it on the exploitation circuit. Admittedly, I did not even realize that this was a thing until I looked it up. But in any event, critics ranked it as the worse movie ever made. The movie dramatizes how marijuana use leads to madness, murder and mayhem. The movie resurfaced as a satire for cannabis policy reform. The new colorized version now has color of the exhaled smoke reflecting the emotion of the person, green, purple etc. Pretty awesome.

 

In the 60’s, the drug culture surged owing to the hippie psychedelic ethos at time. This conclusion sprung from the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. Considering what the senate probably looked liked at the time, sprung probably does not capture the situation. You should insert whatever verb comes to mind when a rusty machine attempts to move forward on something. Crank perhaps.

 

The medical case for cannabis made its way in the Ontario Court of Appeal in R v. Parker. The Supreme Court in R v. Malmo-Levine and R v. Caine in 2003 confirmed that the federal government had the authority to criminalize cannabis. This was unanimous which is equivalent to the court saying ‘Of course the feds can legislate this. What have you been smoking?’

 

The decriminalization initiative crept forward with the LeDain report in 1972 suggesting removing criminal penalties. In 2003, Chrétien did attempt to decriminalize possession by legislating that 15 gms and under would only result in a fine. However, this doobie attempt eventually went out. Dubious. I meant dubious.

 

On a bit of a somber note, we need to mention Huxley’s Brave New World. Written in 1931, he writes about a dystopian future based on technology and drugs, particularly Soma. “The perfect drug. Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant, All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects. Take a holiday from whatever reality you like, you come back without so much as a headache or a mythology. Stability was practically assured.” That is great writing. I wish I paid more attention in high school. Sorry Mr. Pratt.

 

In any event, Huxley was not so much writing about cannabis, as about humankind’s ability to be distracted from looking out for tyranny. So perhaps in between partaking, we should keep watching Trump and keep a firmer bloodshot eye on Ford. Notwithstanding.

 

photo by Michael Fischer

 

#cannabis