Now that you no longer have to “take the dog for a walk” to enjoy cannabis at holiday gatherings, it should be just as easy to pack a bowl in the living room as it is for Auntie to uncork her second bottle of rosé. But for many cannabis users, openly enjoying weed is still hard to do around family, despite being completely legal.
This partially has to do with centuries-old moral codes that distrust artificial forms of pleasure, according to Andy Hathaway, associate professor at the University of Guelph. He says these biblical-era codes aren’t easily undone, even though the stigma around the legal status of cannabis has been alleviated.
And what about your rosé-swilling auntie? “Folks who over imbibe in alcohol get away with it because alcohol has been ingrained in our culture and accepted for so long,” explains Hathaway. “Cannabis culture hasn’t been elevated to the extent that alcohol has within the mainstream consciousness.”
He notes that cannabis consumers are typically quiet about consumption anyway, especially around disapproving non-consumers. “But perhaps young people will be braver in asserting that, well, it’s legal now, so what’s the big deal.”
Whether you’re quietly mellow at dinner time or feel the need to defend your lifestyle, here’s a list of things that were once illegal and terrible in Canada that are now, frankly, pretty laughable. Feel free to bust them out any time you need to remind your anti-cannabis relatives that our social reasons for prohibiting cannabis all those years were also—and this is putting it generously—highly problematic.
Optional seatbelts in cars
Parents today wouldn’t dream of loading kids in the car then driving away—sans seatbelts! But that’s just how most families drove around until 1976, when a mandatory seat belt law was introduced in Ontario. All other provinces and territories quickly followed suit as the number of vehicle fatalities began to drop, and today they remain half of what they were in the 70s.
You couldn’t vote in P.E.I. until you helped build a road
Known as the statute labour franchise from 1836 until 1901, this law is almost quaint when you think of folks coming together to strengthen the community, except that the right to vote was held hostage in the process (for white men only, but that’s a whole other story). Given that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every Canadian citizen the right to vote, forcing voters to work is downright unethical.
By the way, if you live in Ontario, many townships have not abolished the Statute Labour Act. Though it’s not tied to your right to vote, if your property is worth up to $900 (ha ha calm down, Toronto) you are legally required to work five days, plus an extra day for every $300 more. For most Ontarians, this means unpaid work every day for over a year. Just hope your municipality never pulls this out of the bag.
No ugly clotheslines
Considered a blight among the lush suburban lawns of Canada’s burgeoning middle class, clotheslines were once banned by many municipalities across Canada in favour of (read: expensive and unaffordable for many) electric dryers. Today, clothesline bans themselves are illegal in Ontario and Nova Scotia, although homeowner associations and condo corporations can still restrict their use.
No yellow margarine
Lest you confuse hydrogenated vegetable oils with dairy butter, Margarine was banned outright in Canada (minus Newfoundland) until 1950; by 1980, eight provinces still had restrictions on coloured margarine. Ontario held onto this rule until 1995, with Quebec the last to abandon this regulation in 2005.
No shopping on a Sunday
Before 1985, if you needed something from the store on a Sunday, forget about it. The Lord’s Day Act restricted retail sales on what was considered “the Lord’s day” by many, meaning all your running around had to be done on last-chance Saturdays along with hordes of others. This law was repealed by The Supreme Court of Canada in the 1980s, where it was decided the act ran contrary to the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.
No pretending to be a witch
You can totally be a witch in Canada, you just can’t pretend to be a witch, according to section 365 of the Canadian Criminal Code that has been firmly in place since 1892. But before you laugh this off as a relic from a bygone era, Section 365 was used to charge a man as recently as 2012. Allegedly, he just wasn’t the real deal.