Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Episodes from Montreal's marijuana past

 
 Marijuana -  sometimes called Mexican hemp, or Indian hemp until about 1952 - was once advertised in newspapers as a cure all.
   The Courrier du Canada ran an ad in 1874 for Craddock and Company of Philadelphia, which noted that Dr. H. James saw his only son cured for consumption after seeing his own son get healed by Indian hemp.
   The ad promised that hemp also cured night sweats, nausea and colds within 24 hours. Those interested were implored to send a note with postage stamps.
   La Presse reported in 1931 that Canadian horseback police were on the hunt for a variety of Mexican hemp that can "be smoked in the form of a cigarette, which produces a state of intoxication similar to excessive alcohol abuse." It noted that in the States the substance was banned under the Harrison law amendment of 1929 and that  the marijuana cigarettes were known as "muggles, reefers and Mary Warners."
     Police arrested Leo Seguss, 29 of Goodridge Ontario and William Strathdee, 24 of 1003 St. Lawrence on the S.S. Lady Rodney in possession of four pounds of marijuana on 1 Nov. 1933. It was perhaps the first such naval contraband drug bust in Montreal.
    A couple of weeks later three crew members of the S.S. Matawin sailing from South Africa were arrested for the same offence.
    Judges proved themselves up to meting out harsh sentences in the 1930s onwards.
   So getting caught with marijuana was no joke.
   Louis Metcalf and three other star jazz musicians - including Albert King and Sakid Akim - from the celebrated Metcalf Orchestra were caught with marijuana near Dorion on the road to Ottawa in Nov. 1950.
   Louis Metcalf and surely the others, simply returned to the states rather than stick around for sentencing. They were facing six months in jail plus a $200 fine.
   Louis Metcalf had arrived in Montreal in 1946 and was considered jazz royalty during his four years in Montreal.
   The pot-musician bust scenario returned in July 1969 when a couple of members of the Vanilla Fudge band were arrested in their hotel room for hashish after playing a riotous gig at Place des Nations, in which they invited people on stage. Those spectators proceeded to steal the band's equipment. 

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