Cannabis in Canada: If you take a look at our stores or interact with us online you’ll know that we are incredibly proud to be Canadian. Not only is this country our home but is one of the largest exporters of cannabis. Canada is one of the premier growing regions and locations for consumption in the world. In this article we will break down a short history of weed in Canada as well as an intro to cannabis terms to help you navigate the abundance of choice we now have. Stok’d is committed to welcoming new consumers and old school stoners alike. We think you’ll like this irreverent and informative piece on our favourite plant, Mary Jane!
1908 – Future Prime Minister, notable racist and general fuddy-duddy, William Mckenzie King investigated anti-Asian race riots in Vancouver only to learn that, *clutches pearls, white women were using opium! Rather than address the anti-Asian racism brewing in BC “Weird Willie” used the opportunity to target recreational drug use. He led the charge to create criminal penalties for opium consumption and laid the foundation for future cannabis prohibition without any evidence or parliamentary debate.
1922 – Heritage Minute star, feminist baddie and the first woman magistrate in the British Empire, Emily Murphy published a series of articles in McLean’s magazine on the topic of narcotics under the name of Janey Canuck. As much as we don’t love what she wrote her pen name was pretty rad. These articles formed the basis for the book The Black Candle and was widely influential in the racist, anti-drug hysteria that was gripping the country. In it, “she refers to the Chinese man as a ‘visitor’ in this country, and that ‘it might be wise to put him out’ if it turns out that this visitor carries ‘poisoned lollipops in his pocket and feeds them to our children’”. Sound familiar? In the book she talked extensively about the “new menace” of marijuana, and how it turns users into “homicidal maniacs”. A fair and balanced take if we’ve ever heard one. 🥴 It’d be hilarious and awesome if someone put out a weed strain called “The Black Candle” or “Janey Canuck”? Also why does all anti-drug propaganda make illegal drugs seem so cool?
1923 – Cannabis is added to the list of illegal drugs in a late-night vote in Parliament on April 23. However it didn’t attract attention from the feds until the late 1930s.
1937 – The first cannabis seizure happens by the Narcotics Division of the RCMP. No word if any of the officers on scene samples any of the goodies.
1938 – Mystifying nearly 100 years later, industrial hemp is declared illegal because nothing says “tough on drugs” like banning t-shirts, sails and cooking oil.
1968 – Between the 1930s and early 1960s cannabis accounts for only 2% of drug arrests. However between 1961 and 1968 arrests for cannabis possession rose to 2,300 cases. While previously the targets for criminal penalties were working class Black and Asian communities, middle class white students and hippies were getting caught up in Canada’s anti-drug laws. Calls for change begin to grow louder.
1972 – With arrests increasing to 12,000 cases by 1972 the government’s Royal Commission Into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs (aka The Le Drain Commission) published its findings and called for the decriminalization of cannabis. A recommendation to remove cannabis from illegal drugs was largely ignored.
2001 – Following a series of Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s, the federal government amended the Controlled Drug and Substances Act to include the “Medical Marihuana Access Regulations”. Apart from the dubious spelling, these regulations allowed patients to access cannabis from home grows or buying directly from Health Canada. #governmentweed
2013 – New regulations allow for a commercial cannabis industry to form for medical patients. The number of authorized consumers by Health Canada grew from around 100 in 2001 to almost 40,000 by 2013.
2016 – World’s worst Halloween costume wearer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfils major campaign promise to begin the process of cannabis legalization for adult use. The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation was the basis for the legislation that would make Canada the first G7 and G20 country to legalize cannabis. Most of the country rejoices although many legacy cannabis operators complain about the strict legal framework.
2018 – The Cannabis Act came into law on October 17, 2018. Although sales would follow some month later, this day is celebrated by cannabis consumers as the end of cannabis prohibition in Canada, nearly 100 years since it was placed in the category of illegal drugs.
Legally there’s a big difference. As a company that operates in the legal cannabis industry we aren’t allowed to talk about any medical benefit that cannabis might have. We sell a recreational product and we can get into trouble with regulators if we stray from that lane. You, the consumer, are free to research any alleged positive or negative effects cannabis may deliver, but we can’t talk about it either online or in our stores.
Having said that, anyone who consumes cannabis on a regular basis is aware that, in some ways, medical cannabis vs recreational cannabis (aka adult use cannabis) is a distinction without a difference. There are those patients who rely on cannabis either to treat their illness(es) or to manage the symptoms such that they can get through the day. In no way do we want to diminish the power of cannabis in a medical context. However, most adults in the modern world deal with stress as a major detriment to their health. We also deal with disconnection, a huge impediment to mental wellness. Cannabis not only helps us relax, but it’s often the catalyst for friendship and community. Further muddying the waters is that many medical consumers derive pleasure and joy from their cannabis consumption, in addition to the symptom relief it provides.
One of the lagging impacts of prohibition is a lack of scientific understanding by the general public. Cannabis was in the shadows so long that we’re only now starting to get a grasp how it affects us and why. Another challenge when it comes to consumer education is that cannabis has such a diverse effect on people. The same strain from the same producer in the same lot consumed at the same time can have vastly different effects on two people of similar age and body type. But we do need to start somewhere if consumers are to have any hope of understanding cannabis and how it can work for them. So we are sharing some key definitions that you’ll see in any dispensary or online conversation.
There is a lot of debate between scientists, consumers, educators and growers about all of these definitions. However, for the newbies these debates may not be relevant yet. If you’re an OG please don’t shout at us, we aren’t saying anything definitive just giving new consumers a place to start.
THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants. It’s the primary psychoactive component responsible for the “high” people experience when using cannabis. THC works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and central nervous system, known as cannabinoid receptors. This interaction triggers a cascade of chemical reactions, altering the release of neurotransmitters and resulting in changes in perception, mood, and cognition. Its effects can vary depending on the dose and individual sensitivity, ranging from relaxation and euphoria to altered sensory perception. Tldr – THC is what gets you high and has an intoxicating effect. The level of intoxication depends on your tolerance, ie how much and how often you consume cannabis.
Indica is one of the two main subspecies of cannabis plants, alongside Sativa. Indica strains are known for their distinct characteristics, such as shorter stature, broader leaves, and a tendency to induce relaxation and sedation. In the medical context, indica products are commonly used for pain relief, muscle relaxation, and aiding sleep. You may have heard the term “in da couch”. This is a reference to the super mellow feeling that some people get when they smoke, vape or consume weed with a high indica content.
Sativa, like Indica, is another subspecies of the cannabis plant. Sativa strains are typically taller with narrower leaves and are known for their uplifting and energizing effects. The cerebral and euphoric sensations associated with Sativa strains are thought to result from the interaction between THC and the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, particularly the CB1 receptors, which play a role in mood regulation. In layman’s terms, a strong sativa strain is more likely to make you want to paint your house than sink into your chesterfield.
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a very mildly-intoxicating compound found in cannabis. It has gained significant attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. Not that we’d know anything about that. Scientifically, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters in the body. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a “high” but has been studied for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective properties. Researchers believe that CBD influences our neurotransmitter systems. English please? There are many many potential benefits of CBD and a fair number of studies are out there to back this up. But you didn’t hear that from us 😉
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found throughout nature not just in cannabis plants. In cannabis, they contribute to the distinctive flavours and scents of different strains. Terpenes play a fascinating role in the entourage effect, where the combination of various compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes, work together to provide a unique experience and benefits we can’t talk about. The entourage effect has nothing to do with Turtle or Johnny Drama but rather is how the combination of goodness that various parts of the cannabis flower can create in our bodies. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts type thing. For example, myrcene, commonly found in Indica strains, may make you want to lay down, while limonene, found in citrusy strains, may make you want to have a dance party in your kitchen.
Now that we’ve walked the regulatory minefield of cannabis terms, we can unclench our butt cheeks and get back into an area of consumer education we are allowed to talk about. Again for newer consumers, here’s a list of definitions about categories of legal cannabis products that we sell via delivery here or here for Niagara and in our Stok’d locations. We’ve also included our staff picks so you can see examples of what we are talking about.
Dried flower is the OG way to enjoy cannabis. It’s the actual, dried buds of cannabis plants that you can smoke in a joint, pipe, or bong. Think of it as the classic way to partake in the good vibes of cannabis.
Pre-rolls are like the cannabis equivalent of a ready-made sandwich. They’re pre-rolled joints, filled with dried flower, and ready to smoke. Perfect for when you’re in a hurry and want a quick toke!
Edibles are cannabis-infused treats that you eat, like gummies, brownies, or chocolates. They give you a different high compared to smoking because your body processes them differently. So, be patient – they can take a while to kick in!
Vapes are like the high-tech version of smoking. They use a device to heat up cannabis extracts, turning them into vapour that you inhale. It’s a discreet and easy way to enjoy cannabis without the smoke.
Cannabis beverages are like a party in a can (or bottle). They come in various flavours and types, including pops, teas, and even cannabis-infused water. They offer a refreshing and tasty way to get your cannabis fix without the need to smoke or chew.
Concentrates are the heavy hitters of cannabis. They are highly potent extracts of cannabis, like shatter, wax, or oils. These pack a powerful punch, so they’re usually for experienced users. Just a tiny bit can go a long way!
Extracts are like the pure essence of cannabis. They’re made by extracting the active compounds, like THC and CBD, from the plant. You can find them in various forms, including oils, tinctures, and dabs. Extracts are often used for their precise dosing and versatility in consumption.
Well folks there you have it! It’s been a wild ride through the shadow of the valley of prohibition to the present day. As proud canucks we aren’t afraid to both celebrate and criticize our country when it’s warranted. When it comes to the legal cannabis industry there’s ample room for both. From the racist and unscientific origins of making cannabis illegal to the century long battle for cannabis legalization there are plenty of heroes and villains in this story. But at the end of the day, cannabis prevailed and we feel all the patriotic feels that Canada is one of the only countries in the world where weed is legal.
If you’ve made it to the end, we’d love it if you checked our menu of cannabis products and accessories!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Over almost five-years as a cannabis leader, I’ve learned a thing or two about what I think will make this industry exit its growing pains, and take its place alongside other successful Canadian industries.
Even though I’m a good Canadian gal, I carry the grit and determination of my Italian heritage and my Toronto upbringing.
More About Lisa Bigioni Here