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A Brief History of Canada's Road to Cannabis Legalization

February 7, 2018

(Photo Credit - Iwona Kellie)


As it stands right now, the official launch of adult-use cannabis sales in Canada is scheduled for July of this year. With this groundbreaking change in policy, our neighbors to the North will be the second country in the whole world to legalize marijuana nationally (after Uruguay).


This will leave the U.S. behind in a lucrative race towards monopolizing the marijuana industry world wide. Canadian cannabis companies know this, and are already positioning themselves to be leaders once the legalization movement has covered the globe.


How did Canada get to this point of dominance in the cannabis market? Let’s take a peek at how Canada got this far in the legalization process, so we can better understand how they got there and the pathway for other countries that will inevitably follow. 


How Did Canada Get Here?


All the way back in 1923, marijuana officially became illegal in Canada. According to Catherine Carstairs, a professor at the University of Guelph who wrote a book on the history of illegal drugs in Canada, no one is even sure why weed was made illegal to begin with.


The consumption rates for marijuana in Canada were nill, so the move to ban the plant certainly wasn’t in response to a widespread craving for cannabis. With that said, the United States was already leading the charge on the prohibition of all forms and derivations of cannabis, including non-psychoactive hemp which was being used for cloth, paper, and more (thus putting unwanted competitive pressures on textile and paper industries).


Fast forward a couple of decades, and marijuana consumption in Canada was spreading rapidly as it became closely tied with the counterculture movement in the ‘60s and the years to follow.


Finally, in 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favor of an epileptic patient who was using marijuana illegally to stop his seizures that traditional pharmaceuticals couldn't. Without Terrance Parker’s landmark case, there’s no saying when the Canadian medical marijuana movement would have started.


A year later, primarily as a result of the court’s ruling, the medicinal use of marijuana was legalized country-wide in Canada. Patients were finally granted the right to grow their own medicine in their backyard, and even purchase it from a cultivator licensed by Health Canada.



More recently, in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, and the sky looked even brighter for the Canadian marijuana movement. He ran on a campaign promise to legalize and regulate marijuana, hopefully putting an end to black market and underage sales of the substance.


Then, in April of last year, Bill C-45 (a.k.a. “the Cannabis Act”) was introduced to Canadian House of Commons. Fast forward to today, and we're just a few months away from seeing adult-use sales come to fruition. 



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