October 17: A Kaleidoscopic Overview of Canadian Cannabis’ Date of Legality

It’s official: Canada is the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to legalize cannabis at the federal level. What’s more, the Canadian government has given us an EXACT DATE for when the law takes effect and the nation’s cannabis stores may open their doors for legal business: Wednesday, October 17.

October 17 will go down in Canadian history as the day the government Legalized It—but the date already boasts an impressive track record.

October 17 will go down in Canadian history as the day the government Legalized It—but it’s not like the date didn’t already have an impressive track record. Many online pointed out that October 17 will be the 50th birthday of Ziggy Marley, son of reggae icon and legendary cannabis advocate Bob Marley. Others have noted that it’s the day before what would have been the 99th birthday of Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and we can hope Justin will be lighting one up for his dad.

On an astrological level, the Horoscope.co reveals that entities born on October 17 are adaptable and intuitive, and thus able to take advantage of auspicious moments in life. I sincerely hope this proves true for the Cannabis Act, which many hope will be adaptable enough to make room for Canada’s vast network of craft cannabis growers alongside all the corporate entities. As for humans born on October 17: Your caring and genuine Libra attitude brings you joy from collaborating with others and helping those in need, and it sounds like you would make an excellent addition to the cannabis industry.

As for other pertinent October 17 overlaps, here’s a historical overview.

1091 – London Bridge Falls Down

On October 17, 1091, London, England was hit with its earliest reported tornado. Boasting F4 strength and winds of up to 200 miles per hour, the tornado ripped through the heart of the city, levelling hundreds of houses, badly damaging the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, and completely destroying the wooden London Bridge. Miraculously, only two people were killed, but religious citizens nevertheless interpreted the storm as heavenly retaliation for King William II the Red’s recent actions against the church.

1814 – A Fatal Flood of Beer

The London Beer Flood killed eight people, including a teenage barkeep, two women having tea, and a group gathered for an Irish wake.

On October 17, 1814, London withstood another, boozier tragedy. The London Beer Flood was the result of a 610,000 L vat of beer bursting, causing a domino effect in which more than 1.4 million litres of beer poured into the street, killing eight people and destroying the entirety of the densely populated St Giles neighborhood. The 15-foot wave of brew gushed from the Horse Shoe Brewery, destroying two homes and a local pub, and killing a teenage barkeep, two young women having tea, and a group of people gathered for an Irish wake. Hundreds of people began scooping up the free beer from the streets and many resorted to drinking it straight from the gutters. Days later, a ninth death was reported—the person had succumbed to alcohol poisoning.

1888 – Music for the Eyes

Everybody knows weed and movies go hand in hand, and so it’s a neat coincidence that on October 17, 1888, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the first image projector, which he called the Optical Phonograph. As Edison wrote in his patent application, “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.”


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1907 – Wireless Before Wi-Fi

Every Canadian child remembers the Heritage Minutes primer on Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor who sent the first-ever radio signal from atop Signal Hill in St. John’s across the ocean to Cornwall, England. In 1901, Marconi used a kite attached to a 500-foot tether to received a faint three-dot sequence, the Morse code letter “s”. Six years later, on October 17, 1907, Marconi scaled up the experiments, creating the technology that allowed for a stronger signal with regular commercial service between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and Clifden, Ireland. (I can’t wait for our Heritage Minute about cannabis.)

1931 – A Black-Market Booze Smuggler Goes Down

On October 17, 1931, famous Chicago mobster and notoriously violent criminal Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion. One week later, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Capone was the king of booze smuggling during a time when alcohol was prohibited to the general public. Despite being on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list for years, Capone managed to evade charges through intimidation, violence, and bribery, but was ultimately brought down by a group of authorities led by the un-corruptable federal agent Elliot Ness.

1956 – The Michael Jordan of Chess Dunks on a Master

On October 17, 1955, during the Rosenwald Memorial Chess Tournament in New York City, 13-year-old Bobby Fischer beat 26-year-old Donald Byrne, who was considered to be one of the best chess masters at the time. After the match, Bobby Fischer continued his spectacular performance, winning the 1957-1958 US Championship (a feat he replicated seven more times) and became the world’s youngest chess grandmaster at just 15 years old.


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1958 – TV Gets Special

On October 17, 1958, the legendary dancer, singer, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire presented An Evening with Fred Astaire, the first-ever television special. The live, one-hour television event won an unprecedented nine Emmy awards and made the 59-year-old Astaire a star all over again.

1962 – A Butthead Is Born

I highly recommend the cannabis-themed King of the Hill episode ‘The Son Also Roses.’

On October 17, 1962, animator Mike Judge was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where his archeologist father was stationed. 30 years later, stoner comedy fans met the crude and spaced-out Beavis and Butthead, characters created for the short film Frog Baseball, which played on MTV’s Liquid Television before becoming its own spin-off show, Beavis and Butthead, with Judge voicing both characters. A few years later, with former Simpsons writer Greg Daniels, Judge developed King of the Hill, a show about a middle-class Methodist family in the small suburban town of Arlen, Texas, that became one of Fox’s top-rated shows. I highly recommend the episode “The Son Also Roses,” in which young Bobby Hill wants to start growing roses competitively, inspiring his father Hank to get him a sponsorship from what Hank assumes is a specialty gardening store: Stems and Seeds. It’s a hilarious misunderstanding the whole way through.

1970 – A Canadian Crisis

On October 17, 1970, the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ)—a Separatist and Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group devoted to stopping  “Anglo-Saxon imperialism” by overthrowing the Quebec government—kidnapped and killed Quebec’s Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. In one of the most dramatic moments in Canadian history, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin Trudeau’s father) enacted Canada’s War Measures Act, which, similar to the American Patriot Act, allowed a temporary pause of many citizen rights which allowed for mass raids and arrests in order to find the group who had kidnapped Laporte. Sadly, Laporte was not saved through these measures. British diplomat James Cross was also being held hostage by the FLQ at the time but he survived the experience and was released on December 3. Justin Trudeau’s “October 17th” anniversary is shaping up to be a much better one than his father’s.

1998: Barenaked Ladies Conquer the Charts

On October 17, 1998, the song “One Week” by the Canadian pop band Barenaked Ladies reached number one on the US Hot 100 singles chart. The now-famous song—featuring poetic lyrics like “Chickity China the Chinese chicken/You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin” and “Like Harrison Ford I’m getting Frantic/ Like Sting I’m Tantric”—was a Canadian pop-culture moment of the sort the band hadn’t experienced since their breakout hit “If I Had a Million Dollars.”

On a personal note: In 1998, I was a ten-year-old with pre-stoner tendencies and a deep love for Barenaked Ladies, and I spent the better portion of the fall learning every last lyric to this tongue twister. When Steven Page left the band in 2009, I was devastated, and “took his side” in the split. About ten years ago (maybe it was October 17?), I got to see Page live at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s campus bar, and it was one the best nights of my life. He sang all the Barenaked Ladies classics he’d written (the best ones) and at the end of the show, I slipped him a joint and ran off giggling like that ten-year-old girl memorizing “One Week” in her room. I always wonder what he thought of the ridiculous fan who was too shy to say hello but bold enough to force a doobie-pass.


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I could go on listing October 17 factoids forever. (Did you know Margot Kidder and Eminem were both born on that day?) This year, come October 17, history will be made in Canada and I can’t wait.

Until then, let us remember, as Solomon Israel noted in the Winnipeg Free Press, that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada will “continue to prosecute offences contained within the act until October 17”—meaning cannabis won’t be legal one second before the clock strikes midnight on the fated day. Comport yourselves accordingly.

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