On October 17, 2018, Canada became the first G7 country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, attracting the attention of governments, researchers and leaders from around the world.
Outlawed as an illegal substance in Canada in 1923, the eventual legalization of cannabis came about through significant cultural shifts and pivotal moments in our country’s history.
Read on to learn about the historical firsts that collectively altered key government policies and spearheaded a new industry.
#1 The Gastown Riots marks the first pro-cannabis rally; the voice of the counterculture is heard.
Primarily influenced by the hippie culture and new social movements, the 60s saw a significant surge in mainstream cannabis use. By the later part of the 60s and early 70s, criminal convictions were at an all-time high for cannabis users. On August 7, 1971, thousands of youth and cannabis-smoking protestors gathered at Maple Tree Square in Vancouver’s Gastown for a smoke-in to protest drug laws and recent drug raids. Seventy-nine protestors are arrested, and the event becomes the first pro-cannabis legalization rally in Canada.
#2 Terry Parker becomes the first Canadian to fight and win against prohibition laws-- changing cannabis legislation in Canada forever.
In 1987, Terry Parker, who suffers from epileptic seizures, was arrested for cannabis possession and later acquitted due to “medical necessity.” In 1996, he was arrested and charged again, this time for possession, cultivation and trafficking. Four years later, in 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal declares that prohibition laws infringe on Parker’s rights to “life, liberty and security” under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, rendering cannabis laws unconstitutional.”
#3 Canada’s first medical cannabis laws grant patients the right to grow their own.
In 2001, on the heels of Terry Parker’s win, The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) was established, allowing licensed patients to grow cannabis at home or access it through Health Canada.
#4 Justice Donald Taliano rules the MMAR is lawfully invalid; Canada’s first Licensed Producers are established.
In 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Donald Taliano ruled the MMAR is lawfully invalid because if a medical user cannot access cannabis legally and therefore does so illegally, they can be criminally charged. As a result, the MMAR is replaced with the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which creates a new system of licensed cannabis producers for 37,800 Canadian medical patients.
Did you know? The first federal attempt at cannabis decriminalization bill (C-38) was introduced in 2003.
#5 Cannabis activist Owen Smith is the first to challenge how cannabis can be produced, opening the door to edible products.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the 2009 case of cannabis activist and producer Owen Smith. He was charged with possessing cannabis-infused cookies, massage oils, tablets and lip balms. The court rules that restricting a medical patient’s legal access to only dried cannabis flower violates their freedom of choice. This decision gives Licensed Producers the ability to produce cannabis in other formats. It expands the definition of medical cannabis to include edibles.
On April 13, 2017, Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, was introduced to Parliament, which would legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and purchase of cannabis by adults 18 years of age and older.
#6 Canada has become the first G7 country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis.
The Cannabis Act goes into effect on October 17, 2018, allowing adults 19 years and older to legally possess 30 grams of dried flower (or the equivalent) in public. Each province and territory is granted the ability to set its procedures on how cannabis is distributed and sold.