The History of Weed News in Canada: Taking A Look at the Past

weed news in canada

In the past, cannabis has been demonized, exploited and abused by the news and media. Let’s take a look a look at the past and how far we really have come! 

Sometimes it can be hard to remember exactly how difficult the past has been. Weed news in Canada is a great representation of that. While legalization is on the horizon for Canada and the majority of the States have gone at least partially legal, the battle is still at hand. Legalization, will not fix the stigma that cannabis has acquired through years of damaging propaganda. Likewise, it will not stop from the media from capitalizing on the product.

All that being said, weed news in Canada has actually come incredibly far from the Reefer Madness days. However, it is important to remember what the community has gone through in the long fight for legalization.

The History of Weed News in Canada

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Propaganda posters for Reefer Madness. via Weed News

From the 1930’s to 50’s marijuana was depicted as the criminal element entering the homes of good people. In fact, it was so demonized that the media claimed it would inflict smokers with a new medical condition called Refer Madness. The idea was that marijuana would kill the human spirit, exacerbating the evil in men and sexualizing young women. For years, weed news in Canada promoted the myth that weed was creating criminals and leading to wasted lives.

However, this wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the early 20’s that cannabis first was illegalized. In fact, in 1801, The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada distributed hemp seeds to farmers in an effort to stimulate the industry. Additionally, hemp was always a major part of production and sustainability, but all that changed in the 1900’s.

The Revolution of 1910 was a major political change that spread like wildfire across the States. This unprecedented upheaval within Mexico led to a major spike in Mexican immigration catalyzing many of the racial prejudices still prevalent today. This was highly significant for the future of cannabis and the war on drugs. It was from this point on that the weed news took the form of besmirching cannabis. It was a way to convince people that cannabis could incite violent crimes, arouse a lust for blood and somehow give smokers “superhuman strength”.

In 1923, Canada continued the crusade against cannabis adding it to the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment as an illegal substance. This change led to a significant increase in propaganda against marijuana and those using it.

Reefer Madness

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Still from the movie “Reefer Madness”. via SBS

While Canada was not as heavy on the Reefer Madness-style propaganda, the effects of the United States’s anti-marijuana campaigns had major implication for Canada. The main techniques to fight the war on drugs were convictions and incarceration of those caught with illicit drugs. Law enforcement and criminal justice became the highlights of weed news in Canada, providing a way to vilify those who used the product.

Throughout the 30’s to 70’s, these views of cannabis affected those of Latin, Afro, and Native backgrounds, portraying them as gang members, drug addicts, and sexual deviants. The concept came from the States but flooded into Canada leading to an increase in convictions within the minority communities. Weed news in Canada was specific about putting the blame on these vulnerable communities, brainwashing readers to see minorities as drug users.

The Black Candle

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“The Black Candle” by Emily Murphy is based on a collection of articles that appeared in Maclean’s magazine. via CCIC

For more than a century, the federal government has maintained strict control over Canada’s drug enforcement laws as well as the decriminalization of marijuana. These policies had a distinctly racial tone to them. Therefore, as early as the beginning of the 20th century, this meant protecting white Canadians from the dangers of Asian immigration. Asian immigration was leading to rising in opium and narcotic arrests and deaths. That’s when William Lion Mackenzie King stepped in. Raids and arrests rampaged through the west and thus increased and normalized fear mongering drug news. Weed news in Canada began to highlight the fear of non-white Canadians and the supposedly devastating effects of the plant.

That racist theme was given more credence by Emily Murphy in her bestselling book “The Black Candle“, published in 1922. Murphy was able to instill fear suggesting Canada would bee ruined by non-white immigrants, primarily Chinese and black men. This book attained massive popularity for targetting marijuana as a drug for the insane. So for the next five decades, weed news in Canada became a demonstration of the federal government’s power through harsher drug sentences.

A Change for Weed News in Canada

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Anti-marijuana propaganda. via KQED

It wasn’t until the 1960s arrived that attitudes toward marijuana gradually changed that the media began to take the public’s lead. Less of the “Reefer Madness” and more on medical rights of patients to choose the most effective medicines. Advocates and patients began to push for their legal rights and fighting for a healing plant. And while it took until the 2000’s for a major change to happen, the propaganda of the “devil plant” began to subside. The media began to concentrate less on marijuana and more on the community in action.

Weed news in Canada has come a long way. The days of criminalization of both the plant and people are over. The media already is moving towards a more advocacy and medical based path.