Josh Wingrove reports on the Federal Conservatives’ most recent announcement that they are considering the recommendation by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs to grant police the option of issuing tickets for simple marijuana possession, as opposed to charging each offender with a criminal offence. He examines the apparent about-face by the government, which has to this point actively opposed liberalizing the laws. He suggests that the move may be a response to the unexpectedly popular position of the Liberal Party, which says it will legalize marijuana if elected.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, health, science, law

Key Questions to Explore:

What is the legal status of marijuana possession and use in Canada today?

New Terminology:

Marijuana, decriminalization, legalization, cannabis, THC

Materials Needed:

Globe article, quiz handout

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

This lesson focuses on separating myths from facts about marijuana and marijuana laws in Canada. Students will take a short quiz on the subject, followed by a discussion based on the article by Mr. Wingrove. For homework, students will write a paragraph or two that takes one of four different positions on the future of marijuana laws in Canada.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Begin by giving students the following quiz on marijuana. Answers are provided in parentheses.


1)  Which of the following are other names for marijuana?

a)     Pot
b)     Grass
c)     Weed
d)     Mary Jane
e)     Smoke
f)      Cannabis
g)     All of the above (answer)

2) THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is:

a)     The chemical in marijuana that produces the “high”
b)     The chemical in hashish that produces the “high”
c)     The chemical in hash “oil” that produces the “high”
d)     All of the above (answer)

3)  Marijuana is typically:

a)     Smoked in a pipe or as a cigarette (answer)
b)     Injected with a hypodermic needle
c)     Taken like a pill

4)  Marijuana is widely considered to be:

a)     Highly addictive
b)     As addictive as hard drugs, such as heroin
c)     Habit-forming, but not likely physically addictive (answer)

5)  Marijuana can have these negative effects on a user’s health (select true or false):

a)    Damage to lungs from smoke (true)
b)    Possibly trigger psychosis in some users (true)
c)    Induce feelings of paranoia (true)
d)    Cause death by overdose (false)
e)    Cause blindness (false)

6) “Medicinal marijuana” is (indicate true or false):

a)     Illegal in Canada (false)
b)     A completely different type of drug than the illegal kind (false)
c)     Legal for licensed users in Canada (true)
d)     Being used legally by thousands of Canadians (true)
e)     Claimed to help reduce pain and muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, arthritis (true)
f)      Claimed to reduce negative pain, weight loss and/or severe nausea from cancer and HIV/AIDs infections (true)
g)     Available only with a licence and with a prescription from a doctor (true)

7)  Recreational marijuana use is (indicate true or false):

a)     All non-licensed medical use of marijuana (true)
b)     Illegal in Canada (true)
c)     Pretty much legal in Canada (false)
d)     No longer a criminal offence (false)
e)     Can result in a criminal record (true)
f)      Legal in some places in the United States (true)

8)  The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs’ position on marijuana is that (indicate true or false):

a)     Penalties for simple possession of marijuana should be harsher (false)
b)     Police should have the option of issuing a ticket for simple possession, so that it would not result in a criminal record (true)
c)     Marijuana should be legalized (false)

9)  The official position of the Liberal Party of Canada is (indicate true or false):

a)     The use of marijuana should be legalized (true)
b)     The use of marijuana should be decriminalized (false)
c)     The use of marijuana should result in mandatory prison sentences (false)

10)  The official position of the New Democratic Party of Canada is (indicate true or false):

a)     The use of marijuana should be legalized (false)
b)     The use of marijuana should be decriminalized (true)
c)     The use of marijuana should result in mandatory prison sentences (false)

11)  According to the latest Conservative government legislation, medical marijuana (indicate true or false):

a)     Can be legally grown by licensed users, but only six plants (false)
b)     Is provided only by the government, from government-owned growing operations (false)
c)     Can be produced only by licensed businesses (true)
d)     Is produced only by licensed private companies (true)

12)  Legalizing marijuana is generally thought to mean (indicate true or false):

a)     Marijuana would be legal to use, but would be taxed, produced and sold only under strict government controls (true)
b)     There would be no laws that govern the use of marijuana (false)

13)  Decriminalizing marijuana is generally thought to mean (indicate true or false):

a)     Marijuana use would be legal and there would be no laws controlling its use (false)
b)     Marijuana use and possession would still be illegal but it could no longer be an offence under the criminal code and would not lead to a criminal record (true)

When students have finished (likely five or 10 minutes), provide them with the answers and by show of hands see who had the most right or wrong. Engage them in a brief discussion about the quiz, emphasizing the importance of having the facts about the drug, which many young people falsely believe is “pretty much legal” in Canada.

Next ask for volunteers to read aloud the article by Josh Wingrove. Engage students in a discussion about the article, focusing on their own questions but also on these, below, if you find them appropriate:

  • Should police be given the power to determine what would be a ticketable offence and what would require being formally charged, or should laws determine this?
  • How would accepting the Chiefs’ recommendations be similar to or different from decriminalization?
  • Why might the Conservatives be exploring this option now, having been vocal opponents of any liberalizing of the marijuana laws up to this point?

Consolidation of Learning:

Ask students to write a paragraph or two for homework in which they present their own views on the marijuana laws. Their title: Marijuana use and possession should be (choose one) a) decriminalized; b) legalized; c) punished more severely; d) treated the same way as the use and possession of other consumable vegetables.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

Completion of the quiz; contribution to class discussion; submission of homework assignment

Confirming Activity:

Evaluation of homework assignment.