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Lucas Giovannetti



How did we Get to October 17?

The History of Cannabis Legalization and Cannabis Prohibition.

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. October 17 is finally upon us. Cannabis prohibition is defeated as the history of marijuana in Canada has reached its natural apex. Not much has changed since yesterday, to be honest, except that those of us who smoked weed prior to legalization can now be more candid about our recreational activities. Contrary to popular belief, those of you who do not partake will be under no obligation to get high now that cannabis is legal. Cannabis legalization in Canada might seem like an entirely semantic transition. However, when one takes a look at the history of cannabis legalization, it becomes clear that Canada and the United States have endured quite a bit of hardship to reach this coveted day. Now is as good a time as any to reminisce about the good old days, and only admire how far we’ve truly come.

Like Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said of the United States, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Therefore is come as no surprise that the history of cannabis legalization and cannabis prohibition in Canada is inextricably tied to the movement’s history in the United States. For this reason, we will chronicle the plant’s history and defining moments across the North American continent. Buckle up my fellow stoners. Weed in North America is a long and depressing tale.


The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 1: Weed, and Washington

The History of Marijuana in Colonial Days

George Washington cannabis


One brief glance back at America’s history and you’ll surely find that the cannabis plant is as American as apple pie… or Xenophia. The plant has a long and remarkable history in the North American continent that may surprise you. In fact, growing weed in North America precedes the United States as a nation itself.

This history of marijuana here begins in colonial days. In 1619, the Jamestown colony represented England’s economic foothold in the new world. All of the major European powers were scrambling to get a piece of the lucrative North American pie before one another. In such a crucial time period in European history, King James I of England had one thing on his mind… Weed.

The King released a decree stating that all colonists at Jamestown were required to grow what was referred to as Indian Hemp. The cash crop would be cultivated and then placed on ocean-going ships for export back to England. At this time in the history of marijuana, the North American variety of the cannabis plant was non-psychoactive. This was because it contained low THC levels, thus getting high off the plant would not have been possible. However, the plant had a few other essential uses that made it invaluable to early settlers and the English.

Hemp is an extremely useful and versatile plant. Its fibers are extremely lightweight, durable, and can be used for a variety of purposes that you might not expect. It is for this reason that throughout the history of marijuana, the plant has been exploited by many cultures who had no idea it could get you high.

In the early colonial history of North America, hemp was used to make a lightweight durable rope that was utilized in Americas Naval vessels.

As the American colonies matured and gave rise to a nation state, cannabis prohibition was far from the minds of the founding fathers. In fact, the first president of the United States, George Washington saw great potential in cannabis as a cash crop.

At Washington’s Mount Vernon farm, the president grew an abundance of hemp plants. He had great faith in the economic potential of cannabis. In a note to his gardener, Washington was quoted as saying,

“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere”

In his journals, Washington mentioned cannabis as many as 90 times, referencing American, New Zealand, and Indian varieties of the plant.

Another essential use of the hemp plant is as a paper. Believe it or not, hemp is excellent to write on. It is more sustainable and durable than traditional pulp paper and the founding fathers knew this. Many of the working drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written on paper made from hemp. These are undoubtedly some of the finest accolades boasted in the history of marijuana.

So what else did the early Americans utilize hemp for before cannabis prohibition? The cannabis plant could be refined to produce a coarse cloth that was utilized to make uncomfortable clothing or textiles. American farmers would utilize the oil contained within the hemp seeds as well as the fibers from the plant’s stalks themselves. This extract was a key component in paints, varnishes, and soaps.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 2: Victorian Edibles

Weed Becomes Medicine

Cannabis extract 1800s medicine hemp


In the late 1800s, North America began to realize the medicinal benefit of marijuana. This was a first in North America, but certainly not a first in the history of marijuana. The earliest recorded use of cannabis as a medicine dates back over 4000 years ago in China. In 2737 BC Chinese Emperor Shen Neng was of the belief that cannabis had a variety of medical uses. At this time in the history of marijuana, the medicine was prescribed as a tea. The Chinese utilized plant for a variety of medicinal purposes including gout, malaria, and believe it or not poor memory. If anyone ever tells you that you can’t use cannabis and be successful, tell them that there’s a 3rd-millennium Chinese emperor that begs to differ. But I digress, let’s get back to the North American continent.

The mid to late 1800s were a fascinating time in the history of marijuana. On the North American continent, medical professionals were beginning to realize the efficacy of cannabis medicine for themselves. This wasn’t exactly the sort of cannabis mania we see today as the plant was not nearly as potent or widespread. Additionally, cannabis medicine was understandably not nearly as refined or scientific as what we are familiar with.

However, it is not insignificant to the history of marijuana either that scientists and medical practitioners of the late 1800s were beginning to discover many of cannabis’ medicinal benefits that we know of today.

In 1862, one Vanity Fair article hinted that cannabis could have substantial benefit for mental health and wellness. The article discussed a certain hashish candy that could treat nervousness and melancholy. 150 years later, the scientific community would rediscover that cannabis has the ability to treat depression and anxiety as well as a variety of other mental health issues.

A decade later, an 1876 article published in the New York Times would discuss Indian hemp as a cure for what was referred to at the time as dropsy. This was a condition characterized by swelling from an accumulation of fluid. Today we would refer to this as inflammation. Many modern scientific inquiries have confirmed what our ancestors already knew. CBD, one of the key chemical components in cannabis, has the ability to treat chronic inflammation. This condition is a source of chronic pain and many other debilitating illnesses.

Cannabis production was not universal. For the time being, the pharmaceutical community was among the few capable of making extracts from the cannabis plant that could get you high and benefit your health. However, it might not have been uncommon to find cannabis extract in local pharmacies at the time.

At this time in the history of marijuana, things were looking good. Hemp plants were everywhere, derivatives from the plant were being used for a multitude of purposes and, cannabis medicine was making headway on the North American continent. So how did the history of marijuana turn into the history of cannabis prohibition? As we shall see, the 20th century was a dark time for marijuana… Both in Canada and the United States.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 3: Take a Hit of This Essay

The Mexican People Teach us how to Smoke Weed

Mexican revolution weed becomes illegal


If you’re a fan of North American history, you’ll know that many of its more shameful episodes involve racism in one way or another. The history of cannabis legalization is no different.

In 1910, the Mexican Revolution began, and it was a bloody conflict to behold. High estimates place casualties from the war at upwards of 2 million. With so much destruction and devastation wrecked on their homeland, hard-working Mexican migrants packed up their bags and headed North in search of a new life… And they had weed with them.

With its warmer climates and longer growing seasons, Mexico was a land capable of growing cannabis with higher THC levels and better yields than that of northern North America. The Mexican’s were also the first to introduce smoking as an ingestion method to America. Essentially, if you wanted to summarize this portion of the history of marijuana into 2 sentences, it might go a little something like this.

Mexican Migrants: “Hey man… things are a little rough back home… Can I come stay at your place for a while? I’ve got some pretty bomb weed.

America: No

Most of us would be pretty stocked to welcome a hard-working neighbour that brought great cannabis to share with us. However, in 1910’s America, this situation was seen a little differently.

Early on in America’s past, there was no stigma around the cannabis plant. However, the migration caused by the 1910 Mexican revolution brought an age-old conflict to the countries collective consciousness. American’s had begun to harbor racist sentiments towards Mexican migrants as they were fed up with the influx of cheap labor flowing over the border. While these immigrants brought weed with them, negative perceptions of cannabis would require a bit of racist propaganda before they really got going.

In the interest of a linear timeline, we must now turn our attention north to Canada who would surprisingly fire the first salvo in the war on cannabis.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 4: We Don’t Want Your Wacky Weed Eh?!

Cannabis Becomes Illegal in Canada

Mackenzie King Weed illegal


Here in Canada, we take a sort of quiet, nationalistic pride in the fact that we are more liberal and socially permissive than our southern neighbour. However, with concern to cannabis prohibition, this was not always the case. In our history of cannabis legalization, Canada moved independently of the United States in implementing prohibition. This is not very much in keeping with our national self-image.

The inauguration of nearly a centennial of cannabis prohibition began in 1923 with a bill quietly passed by the William Lyon Mackenzie King administration. Interestingly enough, it was a Liberal administration that criminalized cannabis. Nearly 100 years later, another Liberal administration is still undoing this damage caused by this prohibitive policy. The Federal Liberals would introduce what was referred to as the Act to Prohibit the Improper use of Opium and Other Drugs. This bill is terribly named as I can think of no better use of drugs than to get high. The legislation should have been called the Act to Prohibit the Proper Use of Opium and Other Drugs. All joking aside, this was a dark time in the history of marijuana.

The United States wouldn’t follow suit in implementing some form of cannabis prohibition until 14 years later. While its true that Canadian cannabis policy has been strongly influenced by the US perhaps this is not always the case as Canada acted independently and without accomplice in 1923. As parliament decided to add weed to the list of federally prohibited substances, Canada became one of the earliest nations to do so.

So why did Canada enact cannabis prohibition at this time? This is a mystery that puzzles historians to this day. No one has been able to find any record of a parliamentary debate associated with the legislation. This means that one of the most impactful decisions in the history of cannabis legalization in Canada occurred rather undemocratically.

If the conspiratorial gears have begun to rotate in your brain, you might be getting the wrong idea here as ignorance rather than malice was at play here. There are hints within the historical record that testify to the fact that cannabis prohibition in Canada was viewed as an insignificant formality at the time. At this time in the history of marijuana, the plant was a little-known substance in the great white north. Remember, smokable cannabis had just permeated the US border 10 years prior. Therefore, it is likely that very few Canadians had any knowledge whatsoever of smokable cannabis.

This is further evidenced by the fact that cannabis was shepparded into the scheduling system alongside heroin and codeine. The bill, which refers to cannabis as Indian Hemp, is not consistent on its inclusion of the drug either. In fact, several drafts of the legislation do not ever refer to marijuana at all. This can be observed in copies currently housed by the Health Department’s Narcotics Division.

The year 1923 might not have even been a major turning point in the history of cannabis legalization in Canada. Henri Beland, the Health Minister at the time, stated that the bill didn’t set any new precedents but was merely an accumulation of existing legislation with a few amendments attached.

And just like that cannabis prohibition in Canada began. Weed buddied up to morphine, cocaine, eucaine, and opium in its new home as a vilified substance. These were the only other scheduled drugs at the time.

While this would have devastating, unforeseen consequences down the road, at this point in the history of marijuana, the act was not even an afterthought. Prominent newspapers such as the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail make no mention of any police cases involving of marijuana until 1932. What then, was the motivation of the King administration for outlawing such an obscure and little-known substance?

Marijuana was criminalized long before it was perceived to be an issue for Canadian society. The 1920s in Canada were a far different time in the history of cannabis. This was an was an era where prohibition rather than permissiveness was looked at as the default standard. This is at least partially due to the fact that the turn of the century saw a disastrous opium epidemic ravage the world.

During the era of unequal treaties, opium was introduced to China by the British. It was here that the opium epidemic hit hardest. At on point in time, as many as one in ten Chinese people were suffering from oo addiction. Once powerful criminal syndicates such as the Green Gang got a hold of the opium trade, these gangsters pedaled the drug globally. Thus opium addiction emanated from China outwards as upwards of 80% of the world’s opium came from here.

This epidemic colored perceptions of drugs very negatively and thus, paved the way for cannabis prohibition. Politically active throughout the early portions of the 20th century,  Prime Minister King was a strong advocate of the illegalization of drugs. Historical records testify that the man was a behind the of outlawing opium in 1908.

Therefore outlawing cannabis may have simply been an afterthought. There is no reference to marijuana in King’s diaries or writings, which elucidates the flippancy with which the Canadian government made this pivotal decision in the history of marijuana.

It is unlikely that Mackenzie King was influenced reefer madness style propaganda as that wouldn’t debut for another century. At this time in the history of marijuana, the scientific consensus on cannabis came from a 30-year-old British inquiry into the subject. The most referenced report of the era on cannabis was Britain’s Indian Hemp Drug Commission Report of 1894. This document is fairly noncontroversial, even by today’s standards.

“Moderate use practically produces no ill effects… (evidence) shows most clearly how little injury society has hitherto sustained from hemp drugs.”

However, Prime Minister king may have been influenced significantly by international deliberation on drugs. Canadian historian, Catherine Carstairs believes that Canada may have seen itself in a pivotal roll in the global war on drugs at the time. Therefore, cannabis prohibition might have been necessitated by our role as front-line combatants in the international fight against drugs.

“There would have been significant international pressures to do so. Canada liked to see itself as a leader in the drive for international drug control. We were actively involved in all of the international discussions.”

And just like that, with a thoughtless stroke of a pen, the Canadian government enacted a century-long prohibition on a medicinally useful plant. So began prohibition era of the history of cannabis legalization in Canada.

South of the border, the United States was cooking up a racially charged campaign that would have even more devastating consequences for the future of marijuana and the American people as a whole.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 5: Why’d You Have to Bring Race into It?

The Despicable Campaigns of The 1930s

reefer maddness Harry anslinger


There are many villains in the history of cannabis legalization. However, if you can only remember one it should be Harry Anslinger. It is arguable that these this man had the most significant impact on implementing cannabis prohibition in the United States than any other. So who is this drug loathing son of a gun?

Harry Anslinger was a staunch prohibitionist. The philosophy that motivated the unsuccessful of illegalizing alcohol preached that a sober America was a better America. Only by slaying the demons of substance abuse could the United States thrive on the world stage. Prohibitionists such as Anslinger believed that if law enforcement locked up enough drinkers, they would be able to disincentivize alcohol consumption and end dinking in America. This had the unintended effect of driving booze into the criminal underworld and making mob bosses such as Al Capone incredibly wealthy. It is no secret that alcohol prohibition was an abject failure.

Harry Anslinger’s livelihood depends on his ability to sell America on prohibition. The man served as Assistant Commissioner for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commission. Anslinger would get a timely promotion to head Commissioner of the same government agency in 1930, just 3 years before the end of alcohol prohibition.

With the failure of prohibition, Harry Anslinger had lost his raison d’etre. He had spent the better part of his career fighting booze and now his department was at risk of becoming redundant. The man needed a new enemy to pick a fight with and he found just that in cannabis. And so began the dark ages in the history of marijuana.

Anslinger needed probable cause in order to justify cannabis prohibition, but in reality, none existed. So Anslinger had a brilliant and devious idea. He would create lies about the cannabis plant and exploit America’s racist sensibilities in order to vilify the plant.

As previously mentioned Mexican’s were among the first to begin smoking the plant, in the history of marijuana in the United States. They were followed by another stigmatized and segregated community in African Americans. In addition to coming over the Mexican American border, weed entered the United States through coastal ports from the Caribbean. African American jazz musicians used the plant and undoubtedly produced some of the era’s best music because of it.

In order to ensure that cannabis prohibition would become a reality, Anslinger utilized his connections to the press. He would doctor news stories that involved violent crimes to that cannabis was involved. The commissioner would then feed these headlines to news organizations who gladly published this fake news.

Many of the most ridiculous claims and vile lies in the history of cannabis legalization can be traced directly to this man’s scientifically unsupported media campaigns. Let’s examine and dissect a few of these myths that continue to resurface throughout the history of marijuana… Even to this very day.

You may be familiar with the claim that marijuana causes psychosis. This began with Anslinger’s attempts at cannabis prohibition as he claimed that the plant made people “fly into a delirious rage.”

Today this ugly rumor has resurfaced as cannabis prohibition advocates claim that there are links between schizophrenia and weed. The truth is that schizophrenia is biologically based. Rates of this mental illness occur in about 1% of both the general population and cannabis users. In people with a family history of schizophrenia, cannabis can trigger the condition. However, the exact same can be said of many other substances and non-drug related stressors. Recently, scientists have discovered that CBD can actually treat psychotic behavior in schizophrenic patients. This has served one of the most powerful weapons against prohibition in the history of cannabis legalization.

Anslinger also made the claim that marijuana makes you violent. While modern advocates of cannabis prohibition are more likely to make the claim that weed makes you lazy, this was at one time, one of the most devastating myths in the history of marijuana.

Although a reprehensible historical figure, his fear-mongering articles are truly something to behold. One such headline read, “Man Kills Six in a Hospital: Mexican Crazed by Marijuana Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife”. Another stated, “Mexican Family Go Insane: Five Said to Have Been Stricken by Eating Marijuana”.

At the same time as Anslinger was feeding these headlines to his press connections, he would use these articles as references when attempting to convince Congress to enact cannabis prohibition. Harry Anslinger you sneaky little devil you.

In 1937, a year after the hilarious cult classic, Reefer Madness was released, Harry Anslinger would get his wish. For the first time in the history of marijuana, the drug would become federally illegal in the United States.

The propagandist would present his findings to the House Ways and Means Committee that year and just like that the infamous Marihuana Tax Act was passed and the substance became federally illegal.

For the first time in the history of marijuana, the devastating effects that cannabis prohibition has on marginalized ethnic communities would be felt. In 1938, a year after the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act, arrest statistics for cannabis possession would elucidate this.

Mexican Americans, African Americans and Caucasian Americans all consumed cannabis at similar rates at the beginning of cannabis prohibition. Despite this, blacks were three times more likely to be arrested for narcotic related crimes. Mexicans were nine times more likely to be arrested for narcotics charges. Even today, the drug enforcement landscape is characterized by scars left by these racist policies.

Unfortunately, this persecution would intensify as cannabis prohibition and the zealousness with which it was enforced was dialed up in the years to come.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 6: The 50’s Weren’t So Great

The History of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing 

Boggs Act Mandatory minumums

(image via Flashback)

After two decades of cannabis prohibition, you would think Harry Anslinger would be satisfied with the amount of damage he had done… But this was simply not the case. In 1952, the Commissioner would enact one of the most destructive policies in the history of cannabis legalization: mandatory minimum sentencing.

The Boggs Act, named after Louisiana Democrat Hale Boggs, would wreak devastation on the home front. The act made sentencing for drug convictions mandatory. A first offense could merit as much as 2 – 10 years in prison and a $20,000 dollar fine. The enacting of this legislation was marked by the arrest of 500 citizens on January 4, 1952. Surely this was a devastating omen of things to come in the history of marijuana.

Needless to say, these policies were an abject failure. Endless taxpayer dollars have been wasted on housing nonviolent drug offenders in prisons. Not to mention the citizens who lost years of their life throughout the history of marijuana prohibition and the families that have been torn apart as a result.

What were Truman, Anslinger and Boggs Bunny thinking? Mandatory minimums, as well as the entire concept of cannabis prohibition, are based on a faulty premise that you can end drug use with harsher punishments for drug offenses. Policies such as these are conceived without a correct understanding of why people use drugs. If the history of cannabis legalization has taught us anything, it’s that cannabis prohibition and mandatory minimums create far more problems then they solve.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, America’s president that most resembled a boxer (the dog breed not the sport) would up the ante.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 7: Nixon’s War on America

The War on Drugs Gets (more) Political

Nixon war on drugs


As the 50’s gave way to the 60’s and 70s’s, cannabis took on a whole new meaning. As the hippie movement gathered steam counterculture became synonymous with the era. Warriors of peace did everything they could do to fight against establishment tyranny, the war in Vietnam, and the racist and sexist segregation of America. Hippies made love, protested, created some of the greatest music the earth had ever seen, and most importantly for our purposes, took cannabis and psychedelic drugs to expand their consciousnesses.

In this era, the history of cannabis legalization became a fight between the forces of cannabis prohibition and the right to use. Young idealists anti-establishment bonded across barriers of class, race, and gender, standing in solidarity against the powers that be. Unfortunately for these youths, they faced off against one of the most powerful anti-drug opponents of the entire of the history of marijuana in Richard Nixon.

In passing the torch of cannabis enemy number one, Anslinger, could not have picked a better candidate than Nixon. President Nixon wanted to crush cannabis, not because he detested the substance perse (which he did) but because he wanted to crush his political opponents. In 1970, Nixon repealed the Marihuana Tax Act in favor of a more destructive bill, the Controlled Substances Act.

With the stroke of his pen, Nixon set the precedent for years of DEA persecution of the American populace. The CSA created the scheduling system by which drugs in the United States are currently classified. The act places substances into schedules based on their medical usefulness and potential for abuse. Drugs in schedule 1 such as cannabis and LSD are reported to have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. This has a number of consequences with regards to the history of cannabis legalization. One of these included preventing scientists from conducting valuable medical research into the plant.

Nixon upped the ante and made marijuana public enemy number one. This is despite the fact that for the first time in the history of marijuana, a plethora of positive studies began to emerge regarding cannabis.

In 1973, 3 years after the signing of the CSA, a bipartisan committee recommended that President Nixon decriminalize marijuana. This would have effectively ended cannabis prohibition, and I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article. Unfortunately, this was not the sort of scientific research that Nixon wanted to hear and the war on drugs continued.

So what did Nixon have to gain by perpetuating cannabis prohibition? The truth is far more insidious than you might expect. The truth is that it was the people that smoked cannabis that Nixon wanted to target, not the plant itself. In a 1990 interview with John Ehrlichman, a top aide within the Nixon administration, President Nixon’s aims in perpetuating the drug war would be exposed.

“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

This is a damning statement for the legacy of Richard Nixon indeed. Many concerned onlookers have suspected that cannabis prohibition was a conscious attempt to thwart political opponents and Ehrlichman’s statement confirms it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 8: Just Say No

How Reagan and DARE Renewed the War on Drugs


The 1980’s represented a sort of calm before the storm for the history of cannabis legalization. In the decade immediately before cannabis prohibition rapidly disintegrated, things did not look. Few times within the history of marijuana were so many conscious efforts launched to target cannabis. Few decades have also produced so much comedic gold.

In the 1980’s, one man dominated the entire decade politically, President Ronald Reagan. Reagan served 2 terms from 1981 – 1989. He and his wife Nancy were outspoken and dishonest salesmen of cannabis prohibition. The two would use their pulpit to vilify the drug in an attempt to decrease its consumption. Reagan would even go so far as to call marijuana the most dangerous drug in America.

Under the Reagan administration, a number of federally funded campaigns would also emerge in order to attack drug use head-on. One of the federally funded, disastrous drug education campaigns was DARE.

Created by Chief Daryl Gates, the LA Police Chief at the time of the Rodney King Riots, the campaign put police officers in schools, using them as front lines fighters in the war on drugs. They were to educate children on the horrors of drug use and scare them into sobriety… Unless they want alcohol or cigarettes. The campaign was also behind many of those hilarious drug ads you probably witnessed in your youth. From talking dogs, to frying eggs, to deflated best friends, and everything in between, dare was behind it. Thank you for the laughs guys. It’s not like running these ineffective ads cost taxpayers upwards of $600,000,000 per year.

Hilariously DARE fell flat on its face. Several studies have testified to the fact that children within the DARE campaign were actually more likely to use drugs than the general population.

If you can cite any positive effect that the 1980s and DARE had upon the history of cannabis legalization, it’s that it pulled the curtain from cannabis prohibition and exposed it for what it really was: a deceptive and ill-conceived bit of political manipulation.

The ridiculousness of DARE and Just Say No paved the way for the successes of the next few decades. For the first time in the history of marijuana since Jamestown, cannabis laws were going to liberalize rather than criminalize.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 9: The Great Leap Forward

Canada and the United States Do Away With Cannabis Prohibition

Bill clinton didn't inhale

Nearly a century of cannabis prohibition proved far too much for the Canadian and American people. Beginning in the 90’s the thick ice of prohibition began to thaw… and rapidly.

The first major success came quietly, decades before this great leap forward in the history of cannabis legalization began. Oregon would be the first to decriminalize cannabis in 1973, paving the way for others to do the same.

Another massive first came in 1996 with Proposition 215. California became the first state in the history of marijuana legalization to allow the use of medical marijuana. The trailblazing state would face the ire of the federal government as Bill Clinton’s DEA threatened to revoke doctor’s licenses if they discussed cannabis with their patients. However, the cat was out of the bag and Bill Clinton would have a pivotal role to play in the history of cannabis legalization.

Despite the fact that his DEA’s policies were incredibly detrimental to eliminating cannabis prohibition, it can be argued that Old Bill Clinton had a net positive effect on the overall cannabis rights movement. On an interview on a morning talk show, then-presidential hopeful Bill Clinton shocked the nation when he admitted that he had smoked weed overseas in University. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale”, he told the nation.

Many thought this would sink his campaign, however, old Bill rolled with the punches and went on to become a two-term president. This had incredible benefits for the destigmatization of the cannabis plant. This moment opened the floodgates for celebrities and politicians alike to admit to their cannabis use. Since Bill Clinton, the next three presidents have all admitted to smoking weed, and all three inhaled.

Another first would come in the form of Amendment 64 as Colorado became the first state to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012. Two years later, the bill would come into effect and an Iraq war veteran would be the first to legally purchase recreational cannabis in the United States.

Since then many others would follow suit. Currently, 9 states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for recreational use. 31 states currently have some form of medicinal marijuana legalized. An additional 14 states have chosen to decriminalize the drug. This means that more states permit some form of cannabis than not. With the federal government still opposed to ending cannabis prohibition, the United States as a whole might still have a long way to go before attaining what Canada has today.

The United States may have beat Canada to the punch a number of times throughout the history of marijuana legalization, however, Canada is truly first to the finish line. Wheres the history of cannabis legalization in the United States had been characterized by grassroots, piecemeal legislation, Canada’s initiatives have been definitive and sweeping. In 2001 the Jean Chrétien administration made the decision to legalize medical marijuana, ending a significant aspect of cannabis prohibition. Today, the last vestiges of what the King administration enacted will fade into the history books.

The History of Cannabis Legalization Chapter 10: The Present Day

Justin Trudeau Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Canada legalized marijuana

Today Canada takes a massive leap into a previously uncharted territory. Thanks to the Trudeau administration, Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to federally legalize cannabis for recreational use.

With this decision, Canada has an opportunity to become a global ambassador for sensible drug policy.

From everyone here at the Puff Puff Post and Higher Mentality, we wish you a happy legalization day! What are you doing still reading this? Go smoke a joint! It’s legal now!


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A cutie pie who loves cannabis and all of the joy it brings to the world. He is also the sole creator of the HM original show - "Reefer Madness Returns."

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