Article by Catherine Carstairs, Hamilton Spectator
The legalization of marijuana in Canada comes almost a century after the drug was first declared an illegal substance in 1923, but pot didn’t explode in popularity until the 1960s when a group of rebellious people began promoting it as a shortcut to peace and enlightenment.
Concerned about the new use of this drug, in 1969, the Royal Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs visited coffee shops and universities to talk to young people about marijuana use.
One student told them marijuana reveals “a greater sense of the universe.” He enthused that “things you never noticed … now jump out … and every event becomes suddenly deep.” Another touted that cannabis could be the “catalyst to the great Epiphany.”
One participant promised “fantastic benefits” from smoking marijuana and said that it could lead to “a much better way of living.”
In short, many baby boomers believed marijuana use could usher in a new era of experience, enlightenment and joy. Half a century ago, this was utterly new to most Canadians.
Convictions for cannabis went from 60 in 1965 to 6,292 in 1970. By the spring of 1970, the Royal Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs suggested that somewhere between 1.3 and 1.5 million Canadians had used marijuana.
A survey of Toronto adults in 1971 showed that 8.4 per cent had used cannabis in the previous year, with higher rates among young people. Thirty per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 25 said they had tried the drug, while only 10 per cent of people aged 25 to 35 had smoked marijuana. From 1968 to 1972, marijuana use at Toronto high schools tripled.