In January 1970, while awaiting the results of a royal commission studying cannabis and other illicit substances, the Liberal Minister of Health, John Munro, attended a taping of CBC’s Under Attack program. Each episode was a one-hour “free-for-all, where a studio audience of highly vocal students had a chance to pose awkward questions and demand answers from a wide array of political and other high profile guests.”
At a time when both cannabis use and arrests were climbing rapidly, especially among students, the audience took advantage of their time with the Minister to press him on the issue. Health Minister Munro acknowledged that there were lessons to be learned from the failure of alcohol prohibition, and concluded that “if we find a significant minority of the Canadian people smoke marijuana we would be totally irresponsible if we didn’t legalize it.”
Munro Talks of Legalizing Pot if ‘Significant Minority’ Uses It
Ottawa Journal, January 29, 1970
Health Minister Munro indicated Wednesday night he would be prepared to legalize marijuana if a “significant minority” continued to use the drug in defiance of the law.
Questioned during the taping of a CBC Under Attack program at Carleton University in Ottawa, Mr. Munro said the government was “stalling” marijuana legislation, awaiting the results of a commission at present studying the effects of the drug.
During the questioning by students, the problem of marijuana had been compared to that of alcohol and cigarettes.
A student pointed out the government considered cigarettes a health hazard but had not made them illegal.
Mr. Munro then noted that alcohol had been banned in the 1930s during prohibition.
So many people consumed alcohol in spite of its illegal status, said Mr. Munro, that organized crime thrived.
The government had been forced to end prohibition in order to stop the resulting crime, he said.
Asked if marijuana would be legalized in the “near future,” Mr. Munro said he did not expect this.
But he added that it depended on the questioner’s definition of “near future.”
Mr. Munro also added he did not mean the drug would never be legalized.
Many topics were covered in the taping of the one-hour program which involves university students asking questions of a particular guest.
Berkshire Eagle, February 23, 1970 (Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
“If we find a significant minority of the Canadian people smoke marijuana we would be totally irresponsible if we didn’t legalize it.” – John Munro, Canadian health minister