War on Weed

Sensational campaigns targeted marijuana use.

Written by Kaitlin Vitt

Posted October 16, 2018

Marijuana — it’s the burning weed with roots in hell, offering a moment of bliss but a lifetime of regret. At least, that’s what anti-cannabis films from the 1930s warned.

Many of these films came from the United States, though Canada had its share of scare tactics. In 1922, Emily Murphy, the first female magistrate in Canada, published The Black Candle, warning people of the alleged dangers of marijuana and quoting a Los Angeles police chief who said the drug “has the effect of driving [people] completely insane.”

Canada made marijuana illegal in 1923, though there’s not much explanation as to why — no parliamentary debate was recorded when marijuana was added to the list of illegal drugs. On October 17, 2018 — ninety-five years after banning marijuana use — Canada became one of the few countries where recreational use of the drug is legal.

You could win a free book!

Sign up for any of our newsletters and be eligible to win one of many book prizes available.

Help keep Canada’s stories strong (and free)

We hope you will help us continue to share fascinating stories about Canada’s past.


We highlight our nation’s diverse past by telling stories that illuminate the people, places, and events that unite us as Canadians, and by making those stories accessible to everyone through our free online content.


Canada’s History is a registered charity that depends on contributions from readers like you to share inspiring and informative stories with students and citizens of all ages — award-winning stories written by Canada’s top historians, authors, journalists, and history enthusiasts.


Any amount helps, or better yet, start a monthly donation today. Your support makes all the difference. Thank you! 

This article appears in the December 2018-January 2019 issue of Canada’s History magazine.

Related to Arts, Culture & Society