Cannabis Law in Canada
Chris Clay, Hemp Nation Cannabis Outfitters and Warmland Cannabis Centre
Cannabis Law in Canada
Chris Clay, Hemp Nation Cannabis Outfitters and Warmland Cannabis Centre
Jun 25, 2020 Episode 3
Russell Bennett, Cannabis Lawyer,

Chris Clay is ahead by a century.

I use the song title from the Tragically Hip on purpose.

In the early 1990s, university student Chris Clay had a vision: cannabis must be legal.

Chris wasn't alone, obviously. But his plan to achieve his vision was unparalleled: Chris opened Canada's first Hemp Store.

Initially a booth at a London, Ontario flea market, Chris moved his table of hemp products and information, with the help of a government grant, to a London storefront that Chris called the Great Canadian Hemporium. Eventually, he changed the name to Hemp Nation.

With a team of other 20-somethings, including Pete Young (who is the next featured CLIC podcast interviewee!) Chris sold hemp clothing, hemp personal hygiene products and hemp seeds. But Chris wanted to do something else: he wanted to help people grow their own. Influenced by Alexander Sumach and others, Chris began selling cannabis seeds, and did so for two years, never once attracting law enforcement attention. Until he did.

After two raids by London Police, the second of which was for selling plant cuttings, and charges that could have given Chris four life sentences, Chris formally launched a constitutional challenge against the Narcotic Control Act (which became the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act during his case).

Law Professor Alan Young (who was our first CLIC podcast interview) and criminal lawyer Paul Burstein (who is now The Honourable Justice Burstein) assembled a giant roster of expert witnesses to testify as to the harmless effects of cannabis and to dispel all the myths associated with cannabis.

This myth-busting team went all the way to the Supreme Court (please see the case here: R. v. Clay, 2003 SCC 75 (CanLII), [2003] 3 SCR 735). Incidentally, Chris's case is explained in detail in the Preface to my book, Canada's Cannabis Act: Annotation and Commentary.

Chris' case laid the scientific foundation for why cannabis must be legal, and gave our elected officials the comfort against the myths and racist rhetoric. Chris, Alan and Paul deserve the Order of Canada for lifting Canada out of the dark ages of an unnecessary and very harmful prohibition.

On the day of legalization, Chris rang the bell opening the stock exchange. And post-legalization, Chris brought Hemp Nation back to life as Hemp Nation Outfitters, now a store on Vancouver Island. Check it out!

I hope you enjoy listening to this interview as much as I did recording it.

Engineering of this podcast was done by Jeremy Benning.

Music was created and performed by Albert Wong.