People often come to me and ask me all kinds of questions, assuming I know the answers. I must confess that when I don’t have one (which is often) I make one up, just to please my enquirers.
Strangely, the question that I’m asked most often is: “Why is cannabis illegal in Canada?” This one is tough, I had to go back 50 years or so in history to come up with an answer.
In the 60’s, when the United States of America was at war against the ferocious enemy that was Vietnam, many young men dodged the draft because they were not allowed to smoke cannabis while enlisted. Some of these people fled to Canada for protection and to quietly engage in their psychoactive hobby.
Unfortunately, at that time cannabis was not yet growing in Canada. Its closest cousin was some low-grade hemp, good enough to make ropes to hang people with – pretty useless in a country that had just abolished death penalty. American people are smart and known internationally for their entrepreneurship, so it is not surprising that these young American deserters imported seeds to grow their favourite crop.
A healthy cannabis crop in the great Canadian outdoors. The cannabis plant came to America from Eastern and Central Asia. The seeds were probably carried over by sea currents or the wind.
The summer of 67 was sunny, warm and humid: ideal conditions for pollination. Cannabis started to spread quickly in the great Canadian outdoors, so much that it became an invasive species.
Canadians are simple, hard-working people but they are not idiots. They soon realized the benefits of this new plant and began growing and using it.
Alas! Cannabis was growing so well in the rich and fertile Canadian country soil that it rapidly exceeded the needs of Canadian consumers. Regrettably, cannabis growers – who, like all farmers, hate any form of waste – started looking for external markets to get rid of their surplus.
This is how cannabis cultivation became what it is today, a flourishing export industry that would significantly contribute to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) if only it was not a more or less underground activity.
Every year on April 20, thousands of demonstrators gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to openly indulge in cannabis smoking. The smoke and smell from this activity can linger for days. This in a city where it is illegal to smoke cigarettes in a public park. I never thought I would live to see that.
Of course, Federal departments dream of legalizing this economic activity to increase tax and royalties revenues. However, few people know that since taxes were introduced in Canada, the Prime Minister goes to bed each night weeping for Canadian taxpayers who work so hard only to remit more than half of their income in municipal, provincial, federal and sales taxes. You understand that Canadian statesmen cringe at the mere idea of collecting or introducing new taxes.
As well, the machinery of Government is awkward and costly. To regulate cannabis trade, more civil servants would need to be hired to manage the new program, implement complex administrative structures and develop strict monitoring and enforcement. A real nightmare.
By keeping the status quo, the Canadian Government avoids all kinds of hassle and the income from this product is able to circulate freely within the Canadian economy. Also, all durable and semi-durable commodities and real estate purchased thanks to the gains of this industry are already taxable. Of course this economic activity is impossible to monitor through the System of National Accounts, but maybe it is a lesser evil.
So this is why even though weed grows like weeds in Canada, it is still illegal to farm and use.
The true story probably has nothing to do with the one I just told but mine could make sense and it is entertaining, don’t you think?