The march for marijuana legalization

Shortly after his 16th birthday, Leon (Ted) Smith smoked his first joint. He was on a family vacation in Ontario and joined his cousin and some of his cousin’s friends at a rented fishing cabin. “I remember feeling quite intoxicated and being intimidated that I had to go back to supper with my parents completely out of sorts,” recalls Smith in a telephone interview.

Smith was born in the farming community of Monkton, Ont. — population approximately 540. It was 1985 when Smith smoked his first joint. His parents didn’t approve or partake themselves, although they had close friends who did.

Smith relocated to Vancouver in 1994, bringing with him his undergraduate Philosophy degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. He had written a number of manuscripts that he hoped to publish — everything from poetry to a philosophy of pessimism. But after seeing a massive clearcut in Clayoquot Sound, B.C., Smith was pained that these books would be written on trees that once grew from the ground in front of him. He discovered shortly thereafter that hemp was an eco-friendly alternative to tree-based paper, and then learned that was only one of hemp’s many uses.

“And then I went to my first Hempology meeting in Vancouver . . . and it just seemed to me that someone had to tell the story of this plant,” he says.

In 1995, Smith moved for a final time to Victoria. He lived in his van and spent his time trying to strike up conversations about hemp and marijuana reform. While hosting meetings downtown, Smith met Leslie Davies. Davies volunteered within the AIDS community by baking brownies and cookies that contained marijuana. Ted observed that Davies’ marijuana cookies did more than just give people the munchies.

“[Those people] stabilized, they felt better, they put on weight, they went back to work.” says Smith. In collaboration with Davies, Smith established the Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Canada in 1996.

The club is a non-profit organization that provides marijuana to approximately 4 500 people with various ailments and disabilities. Smith says the club has saved, extended and improved the lives of many.

Smith also established Hempology 101, a not-for-credit course at UVic, in 2005. Between 150–200 students have gone through the lecture series since its inception. Smith now has a textbook to accompany his lectures that came out this past summer — one that he says was 17 years in the making.

Hempology 101: The History and Uses of Cannabis Sativa comprehensively outlines marijuana and hemp use in the past and details the plant’s place in our future.

Smith believes that Canada could see legalization soon after the next election, provided the Conservative Party loses. Smith believes a possible private member’s bill from Elizabeth May, along with the support of other left and centre parties, will bring the end of marijuana prohibition to Canada.

The recent legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado brings hope to Smith. He says America no longer has the moral authority, and there’s no reason for them to lock up the border if Canada legalizes marijuana. Smith asserts we will see the end of prohibition in his lifetime. “And likely a lot sooner,” he says.

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