Jailed for Possession: Illegal Drug Use, Regulation, and Power in Canada, 1920-1961
As rates of illegal drug use increase, the debates over drug policy heat up. While some believe penalties should be harsher, others advocate complete decriminalisation. Certainly, debate over the 'war on drugs' is not new. In the early 1920s, as the drive for Chinese Exclusion gathered steam, Canadians blamed the Chinese for the growing use of opium and other drugs, and parliamentarians passed extremely harsh drug laws to counter this use. These laws remained in place until the 1960s.
In Jailed for Possession, Catherine Carstairs examines the impact of these drug laws on users' health, work lives, and relationships. In the middle of the century, drug users regularly went to jail for up to two years for possession of even the smallest amount of opium, morphine, heroin, or cocaine, often spending more time incarcerated than on the street. As enforcement increased and drugs became harder to obtain, drug use became an increasingly central preoccupation, making it almost impossible for users to hold down steady jobs, support families, or maintain solid relationships.
Jailed for Possession is the first social history of drug use in Canada and provides a careful examination of drug users and their regulators including doctors, social workers, and police officers.
- Series: Studies in Gender and History
- World Rights
- Page Count: 240 pages
- Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.9in x 9.3in
‘With Jailed for Possession, Catherine Carstairs provides a unique perspective on the development of policies on drug use in Canada – an essential historical view of how our current attitudes and laws have evolved. This extremely well-written book is important and very timely, as we are in the midst of changing social, legal, medical, and moral attitudes toward those who use marijuana, have addictions to narcotics, and those who profit from the drug trade, and need this dispassionate reflection on how we arrived where we are.’
Jock Murray, Medical Humanities Program, Dalhousie University
‘Jailed for Possession is a fascinating and well-written piece of original research. Catherine Carstairs demonstrates how discourses of race, gender, and class have influenced drug regulation in Canada, and, even more intriguing, emphasizes the significant impact that regulation had on drug users. This book makes a significant contribution to the field.’
Robert Campbell, Department of History, Capilano College
Catherine Carstairs is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Guelph.
Table of contents
- The Drug Panic of the 1920s and the Drive for Chinese Exclusion
- ‘Hop Heads’: The Effects of Criminalization, 1920–1945
- ‘Hypes’: Using and Quitting, 1945–1961
- ‘After a Short Struggle’: Police Officers and Drug Users
- Proscribing Prescribing: Doctors, Drug Users, and the Division of Narcotic Control
- Turning Rounders into Square Johns: Drug Users and the John Howard Society
- Free Drugs or Prison for Life? Changing Approaches to Treatment
Subjects and Courses