TORONTO — Even though Ernest Small was the biggest legal grower of legal marijuana in North America back in the 1970s and is the federal government’s foremost pot expert, the Canadian researcher is in disbelief that the country is on the cusp of legalizing the drug’s recreational use.
The principal research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who was recently named to the Order of Canada last week for his vast body of work, says the atmosphere around marijuana in government and law enforcement circles was “repressive and conservative” for decades.
“I would never have predicted that we would come to this. … There was not the slightest suggestion that one day, marijuana could be a legal commodity,” he said in an interview. “It just didn’t seem possible.”
Now, there are more than 80 licensed producers of cannabis in the country, all of whom are ramping up production to be ready for the July 2018 deadline for the legalization of recreational marijuana across the country, while pot company stocks have been on fire for months.
But looking back, Small had to aggressively plead his case with the government to allow him to begin researching weed, when he joined as a researcher in 1969.