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Just Another Puff Piece

Posted on April 20, 2016 | Posted in General Law

This year, 4/20 feels different to me; not so taboo.  Canadians appear, to me, to be ready for legalised-recreational cannabis use. According to a recent Globe and Mail/ Nanos poll, the majority of Canadians (nearly 70% of those sampled) believe that cannabis should be legalised.


Based on a quick review of pot-related headlines in 2016, Canada is headed towards legalised-recreational cannabis use.[1]

This led me to wonder: why, how, and when was the use of pot prohibited? Let’s start at the beginning.[2]


1923 Cannabis becomes illegal. Cannabis is added the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act’s schedule of banned substances.
1918-1920 Alcohol is banned by all Canadian provinces in some form during this time as a wartime measure.
by 1929 Alcohol prohibition ends (for all provinces except PEI) – but cannabis prohibition remains.
1932 First seizure of marijuana cigarettes.
1937 First four offences related to cannabis possession.
Up until 1965 Very few cannabis possession offences.
1966 112 cannabis possession offences.


According to some sources,[3] there was no reason to add cannabis to the prohibited schedule at all. At the relevant time: (i) there was no widespread use of cannabis in Canada (ii) there are no Hansard notes from the debate surrounding the prohibition against cannabis use in The House of Commons, and (iii) there was no official commentary released explaining the prohibition.

So here we are in 2016 and the majority-elected Liberal government has committed to legalising recreational cannabis use.[4] Canada’s key drug and pharma players are chomping at the bit to get into the game. Shoppers Drug Mart is reportedly contemplating a store-label generic line of medical marijuana. One would imagine that Shoppers is doing so not just to provide its customers with medical marijuana, but to prepare its shelves for the likely recreational-legalisation. Life Brand fast-acting, extra-strength, marijuana capsules, anyone?


Thus far, the federal government declared that it will introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 related to the regulation of cannabis production, distribution, and retail use.[5] We do not yet have details about what legalised-cannabis use will look like in Canada or Ontario. Trudeau has said that “Pot is still illegal in this country and will be until we bring in a strong regulatory framework[6] and I would agree: anything that’s worth doing, is worth doing right. But as the who, what, how, where, why, whens, are mulled over, #sorrynotsorry dispensaries are cropping up all over Toronto.


Anecdotally, my observation is that Canadians are not waiting for legislation in order to use cannabis. As Margaret Wente delicately put it “The barn door is wide open and the horses are galloping off in all directions.” The Hill ought to puff, as soon as possible, or get off the pot.


Special thanks to Craig Jones at Norml, who gave me a quick and dirty lay of the cannabis-prohibition-land and further sparked my interest. More to come on this topic.

Images courtesy of: Atlantida; growweedeasy; and ronnieb .


Written by Molly C. Luu Molly Luu is an advocate whose practice focuses on commercial litigation. She has experience representing clients involved in disputes relating to contracts, insolvency and bankruptcy, and construction matters.
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[1] Majority of Canadians agree pot should be legal: poll – February 29, 2016, The Globe and Mail


Shoppers Drug Mart eyes sales of medical marijuana – February 23, 2016, The Globe and Mail


Legal weed would take government revenues higher, with CIBC estimating a $5 billion boost per year – January 29, 2016, The National Post


[2] Riley, Diane. Drugs and Drug Policy in Canada, A brief review and Commentary. Prepared for the Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin , November 1998. Access online at:


Giffen, Endicott and Lambert. Panic and Indifference: The Politics of Canada’s Drug Laws (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1991). Access excerpts online at:

[3] Giffen, Endicott and Lambert. Panic and Indifference.


[5] Federal marijuana legislation to be introduced in spring 2017, Philpott says – April 20, 2016, CBC News

[6] Interview with Justin Trudeau – March 1, 2016, News 1130


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