Own your ow legal marijuana business
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 2 - Policies and Practices In Canada
Chapter 12 - The National Legislative Context

After Le Dain: forging ahead regardless


Throughout the 1970s, a number of federal politicians promised major reforms to lessen, even eliminate, the criminal penalties imposed on cannabis users. In 1972, the Liberal Party of Canada stated in its election platform that it intended to amend Canada's policy on marijuana,[1][116] which likely gave birth to Bill S‑19. In 1978, Joe Clark, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, declared that a government formed by his political party would decriminalize possession of that drug.[2][117] However, promises of reform ceased in the early 1980s.

In the mid-1980s, Canadians witnessed a significant change in the federal government's position on drugs. This new situation was perhaps not unrelated to the U.S. policy of "war on drugs" adopted in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan. The United States once again became very active within international drug control agencies to encourage the international community to take energetic measures to put an end to drug trafficking, which "threatened American youth".

In 1987, Canada became actively involved in the work of the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.[3][118] Two important events occurred at that meeting organized under the aegis of the United Nations. First, delegates passed a full multidisciplinary plan for future activities to combat drug abuse encouraging the states to comply with their obligations under existing treaties. That initiative targeted four important areas: prevention and reduction of demand for illicit drugs, control of supply, suppression of illicit trafficking and treatment and rehabilitation. For the first time, international legal instruments made express provision for the reduction of supply. Second, delegates put the final touches on the treaty to suppress drug trafficking on a global scale. That treaty was passed in Vienna on December 20, 1988 as the Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Convention of 1988).

In addition to taking part in the work leading to the adoption of that convention, starting in the mid‑1980s, Canada stepped up its international efforts with regard to drugs. In June 1987, it ratified the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971[4][119] and promised to increase its financial participation in the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control to $1 million by 1991. The Canadian government justified its participation in the international drug effort as follows:


“The Government is acting to stem the flow of drugs in and out of Canada, not only because Canadians are among the victims of drug abuse, but also because we have a role to play as responsible citizens of the world.” [5][120]


Canada was influenced by this international effort when, on September 13, 1988, before it had even signed or ratified the Convention of 1988 – which was not done until 1990 – Parliament passed Bill C‑61, designed to combat laundering of the proceeds of crime (money laundering, enterprise crime, etc.). The Bill was aimed at organized crime and the financing of its operations through drug trafficking. The Criminal Code and the Narcotic Control Act were thus amended to create two new offences: laundering of proceeds of crime and possession of property obtained through drug trafficking. These new provisions also applied to the illegal activities of drug cultivation, trafficking and importing and exporting in or outside Canada if they were committed by Canadian citizens. Parliament did not need to legislate to criminalize the other activities prohibited by the Convention of 1988 since, as noted above, many had already been covered since 1961.


[1][116] Spicer, L. (2002) Historical and Cultural Uses of Cannabis and the Canadian "Marijuana Clash". Ottawa: Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament.

[2][117] Giffen, P.J. et al., (1991) Panic and Indifference: The Politics of Canada’s Drugs Laws. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, page 571.

[3][118] Briefing notes, Research Office of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, June 1, 1987.

[4][119] International Narcotics Control Board, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1987, Vienna, United Nations Organization, 1988, p. 21.


Library Highlights

Drug Information Articles

Drug Rehab