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

This week, the Straight revised its “weed freedom” cover from 2013 because it seemed appropriate in light of Canada becoming

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This week, the 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. “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 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 medicinal-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: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promises to legalize cannabis during 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 medicinal-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.
Charlie Smith

I'm the editor of the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver, as well as a CannCentral contributor.

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