Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Malleck on drugs in Canadian legal history

We missed this one in 2015, when Dan Malleck, Brock University, published When Good Drugs Go Back: Opium, Medicine, and the Origins of Canada's Drug Laws with UBC Press. From the publisher:
When Good Drugs Go Bad
There is something enduring about the image of the Victorian drug addict, languishing in the smoky confines of an underground opium den, the embodiment of moral lassitude. When Good Drugs Go Bad reveals that in nineteenth-century Canada, most Canadians were drug users – everyday people taking addictive drugs prescribed by their doctors and purchased at the local pharmacy.

Throughout the 1800s, opium and cocaine could be easily obtained to treat a range of ailments. Drug dependency, when it occurred, was considered a matter of personal vice. Near the end of the century, attitudes shifted and access to drugs became more restricted. How did this happen?

Dan Malleck examines the conditions that led to Canada’s current drug laws. Drawing on newspaper accounts, medical and pharmacy journals, professional association files, asylum documents, physicians’ case books, and pharmacy records, he demonstrates how a number of social, economic, and cultural forces converged in the early 1900s to influence lawmakers and criminalize addiction. His research exposes how social concerns about drug addiction had less to do with the long pipe and shadowy den than with lobbying by medical associations, a growing pharmaceutical industry, and national concern about the morality and future of the nation.

Scholars and students of the history of medicine, the history of law, and social history, will enjoy this engagingly written book about drugs, alcohol, tobacco use, and legislation in Canada. This book will also be of interest to professionals who work in the area of drug advocacy and addiction.
Praise for the book after the jump:


“Malleck vividly depicts how sensationalism, misunderstanding, and the threat to the practise of medicine fuelled the new concept of addiction distinct from insanity and moral depravity. Malleck’s scouring of all available records provides a rich understanding of how the social and cultural factors surrounding opium in Canada set the stage for the moral debate over drug use … His thorough analysis and ability to draw on a mountain of records to seamlessly tell the story provides the reader with a new found appreciation of the complex development of drug legislation in the modern era.” -Joel Rudewicz,

“[A] close study of how doctors, pharmacists, bureaucrats, and policy-makers wrestled over the control of opiates in the decades leading to the first Opium Act of 1908 … When Good Drugs Go Bad will be of interest to scholars exploring the history of drugs and their regulation while also adding to our understanding of state formation and professionalization during the nineteenth century. Its multi-regional focus on Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia serves to nationalize these issues. Malleck also addresses and critically challenges the association in British Columbia between anti-Chinese sentiments and opium that, he argues, has distorted events by insisting that the Opium Act was a reaction to racial tensions. Instead, by broadening the regional lens, Malleck shifts the story to a contest over professional authority.”-Erika Dyck

“In Malleck’s brilliant account we can see how commercial interests both combined and competed with professionals and sellers to influence Canada’s drug laws … As Canadians debate how marijuana should be designated—legal or illegal, medicine or recreational drug or both—Malleck provides a fascinating description of a similar journey taken by pain medications such as opium and cocaine at the beginning of the last century. His book provides a useful history to help us navigate today’s discussions about who should grow and sell safe and affordable marijuana.” -Colleen Fuller

Further information is available here.

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