What is the Commemoration of the Victims of Cannabis Prohibition?


The rise of cannabis in the US and Canada has been nothing short of remarkable. From prohibition to the mainstream, the legal landscape has shifted dramatically in only a few short years. But did you know there was a day to honour victims who gave their lives or freedom in the fight for cannabis legalization?


On October 5th, we commemorate the victims of cannabis prohibition. Hundreds of thousands of people have been incarcerated, deprived of their rights, and otherwise harmed due to cannabis prohibition. This day is an opportunity to reflect on the damage that has been done and to pledge to work for a better future.


A Brief History Of Cannabis Prohibition In Canada

Cannabis has a long and complex history in Canada. It wasn't until 1923 that cannabis was officially outlawed in Canada. The first cannabis-related arrest wasn't made until 1937, and it wasn't until the 1960s that the drug began to enter the mainstream. At that time, possession of cannabis could result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.


In 1987, Canada declared a "war on drugs," and possession of cannabis became increasingly looked down on. In 1996, Terry Parker was arrested for possessing medical cannabis, marking a turning point in public opinion. In 2000, medical use of cannabis was legalized, and finally, in 2018, recreational use was also legalized for adults.


A Brief History Of Cannabis Prohibition In The US

In the United States, restrictions and labeling of cannabis prohibitions began in the 1920s and by the mid-1930s cannabis was regulated as a drug in every state, including 35 states that adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The first national regulation was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

In1970, Cannabis was officially outlawed for any use with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Multiple efforts to reschedule cannabis under the CSA have failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for medical purposes. Despite this, states and other jurisdictions have continued to implement policies that conflict with the federal law, beginning with the passage of California's Proposition 215 in 1996. By 2016 a majority of states had legalized medical cannabis, and in 2012 the first two states (Colorado and Washington) legalized recreational use.


Today, recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in 19 states and another 12 states have decriminalized its use. Commercial distribution of cannabis has been legalized in all jurisdictions where possession has been legalized, except for D.C.


Why October 5th?

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act made it illegal to possess or sell cannabis in the United States. Two days after the Act was enacted, Denver police detained Moses Baca for coming home drunk and beating his wife. Upon searching him, they found a quarter ounce of cannabis and arrested him for possession. Baca was sentenced to 18 months in prison and served his complete sentence.


On October 5th, 1937, Samuel Caldwell was arrested following a drug trafficking raid. He was sentenced to four years for possession and trafficking and served his complete sentence.


Criminalizing Cannabis

In the 1960s, cannabis began to enter the mainstream in the US and Canada. Possession of Cannabis in the 1960s was a crime that could result in a 6 months jail sentence.


The crackdown on cannabis continued into the 1990s when people started to grow increasingly concerned about the harsh penalties associated with its use. Since then, there has been a gradual shift towards more tolerant attitudes towards cannabis use.


These cases illustrate the harsh penalties that were imposed for cannabis possession. Although Baca's sentence may seem excessive by today's standards, it was not uncommon for people to receive lengthy prison terms for possessing small amounts of cannabis during this period.


Why We Commemorate Victims

Every year on October 5th, cannabis users and advocates commemorate the victims of marijuana prohibition. In the years that marijuana has been illegal, arrests and incarceration have ruined countless lives. Families have been torn apart, and careers have been destroyed. This day is dedicated to raising awareness about the harms caused by marijuana prohibition and honouring those who have been impacted by it.


A Brighter Future For Cannabis

Just a few short years ago, the idea of cannabis legalization would have seemed unthinkable. But thanks to a shift in public opinion and groundbreaking legislation, cannabis is now legal across Canada and in various US states. This change has had a profound impact on both countries, both economically and socially. The legal cannabis industry is booming on the economic front, with new businesses popping up across legalized jurisdictions.


On the social front, cannabis legalization has helped to break down many of the stigma surrounding the plant. There are still some challenges that need to be addressed, such as ensuring that legal cannabis is affordable and accessible to all Americans, but overall, this is a huge step in the right direction.


How Can We Help?

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