B.C. was at forefront in long-running battle to bring about cannabis legalization in Canada

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This week, the Georgia Straight revised its “weed freedom” cover from 2013 because it seemed appropriate in light of Canada becoming the first western industrialized country to legalize pot.

Although the Cannabis Act doesn’t represent the true weed freedom that long-time activists have envisioned, it’s still a landmark event in the country’s history.

For many, that’s worth celebrating, even as those who’ve fought the war on drugs look forward to far more battles in the years to come.

“The end of prohibition isn’t a win,” Groundwork Consulting partner and cannabis historian Jamie Shaw cautioned last month at Grassroots Expo at SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver. “It’s a draw. And it’s a war that’s still going on.”

B.C. has been at the forefront in the long, drawn-out struggle to reduce the stigma of cannabis.

Here are some highlights over the past 111 years:

1907

A white mob attacks Chinatown and Japantown in Vancouver, prompting an inquiry by then deputy labour minister Mackenzie King.

1908 

King discovers widespread opium use in Chinatown, leading to passage of a federal law banning its importation, kick-starting the war on drugs.

1923

With King now prime minister of Canada, cannabis is added to the federal list of banned drugs.

1930s

Cannabis is enjoyed by aficionados of Vancouver’s thriving jazz scene.

1936

The film Reefer Madness is released, suggesting that when students try cannabis, they will commit murder, rape, and suicide.

1960s

Cannabis use increases as psychedelic music becomes more popular and opposition to the Vietnam War grows.

1967

Straight contributor Peter Hlookoff demands that narcotics officers stop busting people who use cannabis for recreational purposes and calls for those in jail to be released. 

1960s

Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin meet in Vancouver and later become the world’s most famous stoner-comedian duo.

1971

The Straight promotes the Grasstown Smoke-In & Street Jamboree in Maple Tree Square. Police on horseback launch a vicious crackdown.

1994

Marc Emery opens a store on West Hastings Street called Hemp B.C.

1994

David Malmo-Levine launches Cannabis Day on July 1 on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

1995

Emery’s seed business receives front-page coverage in the Wall Street Journal; the first 4/20 protest in Vancouver occurs.

1996

Emery runs for mayor, coming in fourth place with 1,125 votes.

1997

The B.C. Compassion Club Society is formed and it launches what is now the oldest and longest-running dispensary in the Americas.

1997

Medicinal-cannabis activist Brian Taylor is elected mayor of Grand Forks.

2000

The B.C. Marijuana Party is launched.

2001

Health Canada establishes a regulation defining which patients are eligible for medicinal cannabis.

2002

Cannabis-legalization activists heckle U.S. drug czar John Walters at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon.

2004

Vancouver police raid Da Kine, a café owned by Don Briere that openly sells cannabis.

2005

Emery is arrested and is subsequently extradited to the United States, where he serves four years in prison.

2008

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw—a specialist in cannabis law—and cannabis-legalization activist Dana Larsen both step down as NDP candidates after video appears showing them consuming illegal substances.

2010

Larsen enters the B.C. NDP leadership race.

2011

Larsen throws his support behind John Horgan, who finishes third behind future solicitor general and B.C. cannabis czar Mike Farnworth and the eventual winner, future health minister Adrian Dix.

2012

Vancouver police conduct their first raid on a medical-cannabis dispensary—iMedikate on Renfrew Street—resulting in charges against a mother and son for trafficking.

2012

Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray runs for Liberal leader and calls for legalization of cannabis. This puts her chief opponent, Justin Trudeau, on the defensive.

2012

The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries launches a certification program to enhance public confidence.

2013

The Straight's weed freedom cover appears in the midst of the Stephen Harper government's attempts to drive Vancouver dispensaries out of business. “Right now, we’ve got the science behind us—not just the medical science,” medicinal-cannabis expert Adolfo Gonzalez tells the Georgia Straight. “We’ve got the social science behind us. We’re reducing crime rates. We’re reducing people consuming hard drugs and reducing their addiction to over-the-counter drugs as well.”

2013

Sensible B.C. collects 200,000 signatures in an initiative campaign to try to stop police from arresting people for possession of cannabis. In the midst of this campaign, Trudeau first expresses his support for legalization.

2014

Health Canada creates the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.

2015

The Supreme Court of Canada upholds an acquittal of Victoria resident Owen Smith, who baked cannabis-laced cookies for medicinal-cannabis patients. It's a landmark ruling regarding edibles.

2015

Vancouver becomes the first city in Canada to regulate cannabis dispensaries.

2015

Trudeau promises to legalize cannabis in the federal election campaign. Later that year, his party wins a majority and he becomes prime minister.

2016

Following a trial in Federal Court in Vancouver, Justice Michael Phelan strikes down a ban on medical-cannabis patients growing their own weed. 

2017

Statistics Canada reports that B.C. ranks first in cannabis production through Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

2018

The Cannabis Act is proclaimed into law, legalizing consumption 95 years after it had been prohibited by a former Liberal government headed by Mackenzie King. Canadian-based cannabis stocks become the talk of Wall Street.

Discuss