Pubdate: Thu, 06 Sep 2007
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Georgia Straight
Author: Peter Lipskis


Your article on Vancouver's race riot 100 years ago was interesting
["Commemorating a race riot", Aug. 30--Sept. 6]. A point not mentioned
is that its legacy continues in the criminalization of
cannabis/hemp/marijuana. If Wikipedia is correct, "The prohibition of
cannabis actually began with the prohibition of opium, which itself
began with an anti-Asian riot in Vancouver, British Columbia [in
1907]. Ottawa sent the new deputy Minister of Labour (and future
Prime Minister) William Lyon Mackenzie King to Vancouver to resolve
the issue. Since the Asian businessmen were licensed opium dealers,
Mackenzie King condoned the racist riot on the opium dens, arguing
that because 'white women and girls' were customers, the riot was
justified. Instead of providing compensation, Mackenzie King created
the Anti-Opium Act of 1908--North America's first national anti-drug
law. The law was racist on the surface--it forbade opium sales in
Chinese opium dens but allowed it to continue in white botanical drug

Canada's first female judge, Emily Murphy, wrote a book called The
Black Candle in 1922. Wikipedia continues: "These stories were mostly
about opium and the Chinese, but Marihuana was also mentioned. Murphy
took scare stories from American newspapers and repeated them
verbatim, ascribing the worst crimes to the much-scapegoated hemp plant.

Like Mackenzie King, Murphy saw opium as a tool the dark races used to
seduce good white girls and just added cannabis to their evil arsenal."

Canada passed the Immigration Exclusion Act in 1923. At that time,
"cannabis was added to the growing list of prohibited drugs, with
absolutely no debate in Parliament."


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