Cannabis Canadiana: The intriguing, misunderstood history of cannabis in Canada
From the first hemp crop to the dark history of prohibition, from medicine to music, and from agriculture to counterculture – Canada’s most interesting plant has a tale to tell.
Use this map to explore watershed moments in Canadian history, regional insights into legalization, and stories of cultural icons who showed the world that cannabis is more than just a plant. View the entire map in detail, and read on to find out more about each region.
- Before Europeans arrive in North America, Indigenous people eat hemp seeds and make items like rope, fishing line, nets and slings from hemp.
- 1936: The Propaganda film Reefer Madness chronicles fictional high school students’ drug-induced descent into madness, demonizing cannabis and aiming to scare North American youth.
- Today, in many regions, landlords and condo boards will have the right to prohibit consuming or growing cannabis in their buildings.
- August 2018: Canada makes it legal to harvest hemp flowers, buds and leaves, which had been illegal since 1998.
- October 17, 2018: The Cannabis Act goes into effect, legalizing recreational use of cannabis.
- Edibles and concentrates will be legal within a year of cannabis legalization.
- 1908: Prejudice toward Chinese immigrants, including railroad workers, influences the Opium Act, setting the stage for cannabis prohibition.
- Ample rainfall, fertile soil, warm summers and cool autumns give B.C. the ideal growing climate.
- 1960s: Tens of thousands of Vietnam War draft dodgers arrive in B.C., contributing to the cannabis industry and counterculture.
- Tommy Chong: Born in Edmonton, he attends school in Calgary and later meets draft dodger Cheech Marin in Vancouver. Together, they form the legendary comedy duo Cheech & Chong.
- Ian Tyson: The country music legend supposedly introduces Bob Dylan to cannabis. Dylan later introduces it to The Beatles.
- 25% of Albertans who use cannabis are registered medical cannabis patients – the largest proportion in Canada. Alberta has about nine times more medical cannabis patients than B.C.
- With no cap on retail licences, Alberta is expected to lead the retail cannabis sector. No single entity can hold over 15% of total retail licences.
- Saskatchewan leads Canada in hemp production, in both the number of industrial licences and the hectares used for cultivation.
- 1923: Hemp demand is waning, but the Canadian government continues to incentivize domestic production. The government-financed Manitoba Cordage Company becomes Canada’s seventh hemp mill.
- Early 1800s: Britain begins encouraging Canadian settlers to grow hemp to reduce dependence on foreign markets. The Canadian government creates the Board for the Encouragement of the Cultivation of Hemp in 1802.
- 1892: William Osler, the John Hopkins Hospital co-founder writes in 1892 that “Cannabis Indica is probably the most satisfactory remedy for migraines.”
- 1922: Emily Murphy’s book The Black Candle kindles anti-cannabis sentiment.
- 1938: Hemp production is criminalized under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act.
- Gord Downie: The late Tragically Hip vocalist sings the praises of cannabis. Legalization falls on the one-year anniversary of his passing.
- 1985: Resin scrapings of 500-year-old pipes containing hemp and tobacco are discovered in Ontario.
- 1535: In present-day Quebec City, Jacques Cartier discovers “as good a hemp as that of France, which comes up without sowing or tilling it.”
- 1668: Quebec administrator Jean Talon forces settlers to grow hemp for textile exports.
- 1790: Britain offers free cannabis seeds to Quebec farmers. Only 15 accept.
- Leonard Cohen uses medical cannabis while recording his final record, You Want It Darker.
- 1606: Louis Hébert, Parisian botanist and apothecary, plants the first hemp crop in Canada.
- Until the 19th century, hemp is frequently used for ship-building material like canvas sails, rigging, anchor cables, nets and fishing line.
- 1897: Nova Scotia Medical Association president F.W. Goodwin says cannabis enhances sexual pleasure and gives consumers a feeling “as if [they] had heard good tidings of great joy.”
- As of October 2018, there’s only one retail store in Yukon, located in Whitehorse.
- The North has the highest medical cannabis costs in Canada.
- The territories rely on imports, and equipment and supplies have to be flown in more frequently as ice roads melt earlier every year.
- Online cannabis sales in the Northwest Territories only serve areas without liquor stores.
- Communities in the North can vote to ban cannabis sales and consumption. There are six “dry” communities in the Northwest Territories, one in Yukon and 13 in Nunavut that ban intoxicants.
- Surrarnaqtuq: Inuktitut term for cannabis.
- 0.02: Population density per square kilometre in Nunavut (the Canadian average is 3.9).