50 Years Ago Today: Here's what newspapers said about cannabis

50 Years Ago Today: Here's what newspapers said about cannabis

Monica Zurowski, Calgary Herald
Updated: February 6, 2019

Cannabis — along with last year’s legalization of its recreational use in Canada — has dominated headlines in recent months. But, “pot” has long been a favoured topic of media. Case in point? Fifty years ago today, the main story on the Calgary Herald’s front page was about marijuana use by high school students.

It was Feb. 6, 1969 and the news story noted that more than a quarter of Calgary high school students had “smoked up,” as the kids used to say. One of the experts also noted that “business men in the city have been caught smoking marijuana, but they were not arrested.” While these respectable types didn’t suffer a penalty, “the guy with the hair that’s a bit longer” was more likely to get arrested, the expert said, adding 15 University of Calgary students had been arrested on pot-related charges in the previous 10 days. That expert, a U of C professor named L.E. Acker, also added he had tried pot — and liked it.

Another U of C prof, Clement Blakeslee, was quoted in the news story and mentioned that recreational drugs should be used safely. He was obviously a man ahead of his time, saying he favoured the legalization of marijuana and claiming the automobile was a greater menace to society than pot.

The two profs were speaking at a panel at the old Centennial Planetarium, where a 200-member audience was asked if anyone there had “smoked marijuana.” About 50 people raised their hands.

Taking a peek in the Herald photo archives at the same topic, I found the following photo, first published Aug. 15, 1963. It could be one of the first photos of marijuana ever published in the newspaper. The cutline (caption) for the photo that appeared in print is carefully cut out and pasted on the back of the photo. It carefully explains what readers are seeing: “MARIJUANA PLANTS: These bushes, which belong to the Indian hemp family, are known to grow wild through most of the world, including parts of Canada. They are fairly common in Alberta and anyone seeing the plants should contact the RCMP. When dried, the leaves are smoked. They are considered to be a narcotic.” As the back of the photo shows, this picture was published more times in the following years, with a 1971 cutline noting, “THESE INNOCENT-LOOKING PLANTS AREN’T . . . the dried leaves produce marijuana — and problems.”


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