Article by Colin Butler, CBC News
A University of Guelph professor who penned a book on the history of illegal drugs in Canada says after nearly a century of marijuana prohibition, no one is really sure why it was made illegal in the first place.
“We don’t actually know,” Catherine Carstairs told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday.
A professor and chair of the history department at the University of Guelph, Carstairs is the author of the 2006 book Jailed for Possession: Illegal Drug Use, Regulation and Power in Canada, 1920-1961.
She said there are two competing theories as to why lawmakers banned marijuana in Canada in 1923, but both remain little more than speculation because of a lack of historic evidence.
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Carstairs believes marijuana was made illegal by government bureaucrats without much thought, who felt the drug was coming under increasing international scrutiny as a drug that one day need to be regulated.
“By 1922 a number of U.S. states had already introduced legislation against the drug and I think Canada was sort of following international guidelines and added marijuana to the schedule of restricted drugs without a great deal of debate,” she said.
“There was no discussion of it in Parliament, there’s almost nothing in the archival records about why they added marijuana. Probably the most plausible explanation was it was under discussion at the international level,” she said.
Carstairs adds that while federal law makers barely knew about the existence of pot, it wasn’t something the average Canadian knew much about either.
“There was almost no marijuana use in Canada at the time,” she said.