Nothing hammers home the notion that public perception of cannabis has changed like a look through a few issues of the Georgia Straight from half a century ago.
These days, the Vancouver Police Department has made it clear that cannabis is pretty low on its list of priorities. (A VPD spokesperson told the Straight in May that the most an officer might do if they came across a person consuming in public is seize the cannabis in question, and even that doesn’t occur very often.)
But in the late ’60s and early ’70s before the VPD’s time, infamous RCMP narc Abe Snidanko made it his mission to see that all hippies, beatniks, and stoners be thrown in jail for the possession of pot.
During that time, the Straight had its finger on the pulse of the police station, documenting and photographing violent arrests for non-violent offences and publishing the stories in the paper, and eagerly outing crooked cops.
The subject came up in almost all early issues, often in a regular column called the Bum-Tripper’s Guide, which offered commentary on the situation between Vancouver’s “marijuana fiends” and the cops who tried to bring them down.
March 28 to April 3, 1969: This issue featured an article titled, “Plant your seeds”. It provided readers with tips on growing their own cannabis plants, and led to some legal issues for the Straight.
As such, it’s fair to assume that a fair number of the Straight’s first reporters used cannabis. When it wasn’t being discussed in relation to the police, writers took to discussing its benefits, often focusing on the clarity and relaxation that came with use.
But, in 1969, when the Straight thought it would be a good idea to publish an issue featuring a cannabis growing guide, police stepped in.
Publisher Dan McLeod and managing editor Bob Cummings were both charged with ‘counsel to commtt an