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“Beat group says marijuana should be legal like alcohol,” reads a horrified headline in the Vancouver Province, as the West Coast’s drug culture once again takes the spotlight.
“A secret society has been formed in Vancouver for the promotion of marijuana smoking,” reports the newspaper, “and its leader is an attractive 24-year-old brunette. The society, mostly consisting of ‘beatniks’, bearded, self-styled intellectuals and art addicts, holds meetings, canvasses support from high school and university students and has a charter dedicated to the advancement of marijuana.”
“Marijuana produces no physical dependence,” the group’s charter declares. “Why not give marijuana the same legal and social status as alcohol by legalizing its import and consumption? The classification of marijuana as a dangerous narcotic is a cruel and unusual punishment.”
The first mention of marijuana in a Vancouver newspaper was almost thirty years earlier in 1937 and, in the years since, the city has slowly gained a national reputation as Canada’s hotbed for drugs and vice. Alongside reports of the “beat group”, the paper also takes great pains to publish the names and ages of four men recently charged with marijuana possession, whose cases are currently before the magistrate’s court. In the years to follow, police efforts against marijuana users and traffickers will steadily increase, reaching a very public peak in 1971 with Operation Dustpan – an undercover operation designed to arrest as many soft-drug users as possible.
“There is more information,” the group’s charter concludes, “and if you feel that you do not really know enough about marijuana, perhaps in the interest of justice you should try to find objective reports on the subject.”
IMAGE: A pro-marijuana demonstrator being arrested at the “Grasstown Smoke-In”, circa 1971. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Sun.