Emily Murphy is known as a hero for women’s rights. She is credited along with four other women (the famous five) for the “persons case” in which it was ruled in 1927 that women were “qualified persons” to sit on the senate. She was also the first female magistrate in Canada and the British empire. There are statues of her throughout Canada and she currently appears on the $50 bill.


In addition to her fight for women’s equality she was extremely racist and the driving force behind Canada’s first marijuana law. How can a person who fights sexism and promotes racism be considered a hero? It is the same issue. Murphy wrote a series of articles in Maclean’s magazine in the early 1920s under the pen name “Janey Canuck”. These articles were extremely racially biased and sensationalized drug use in Canada. The articles were later compiled into a book called “the Black Candle”. It was based entirely on Murphy’s experience in Alberta courts and several visits to Vancouver. This quote is from one of those visits

If Chinese are allowed to live like rats in a cellar, what else can be expected?

She demonized drugs and the drug users equally. The book continually points at the Chinese for the root of the entire drug problem as well as for corrupting white women. One section describes two well off younh women who were lured into the “drug ring” by a smooth talking Chinaman and addiction to cocaine. Here is another quote

We naturally classify these traitors (Chinese) as men of fishy blood who might easily be guilty of any enormity no matter how villainous. We execrate [loathe intensely] them and take upon ourselves a kind of depart-ye-cursed attitude

Much of the effects of opium addiction she wrote about are true but very much sensationalized. She continued the same trend with her chapter called “Marahuana – a new menace”. Since it was basically unknown in North America she had no actual experience with the effects or users. She described the effects, poorly, based on folklore. Cannabis is treated as though is not only equal but more dangerous than opium and cocaine. A quote from this chapter

Charles A. Jones, the Chief of Police for the city, said in a recent letter that hashish, or Indian hemp, grows wild in Mexico but to raise this shrub in California constitutes a violation of the State Narcotic law. He says, “Persons using this narcotic, smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition. While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.

The chapter ends with this

It has been pointed out that there are three ways out from the regency of this addiction: 1st—Insanity. 2nd—Death. 3rd—Abandonment. This is assuredly a direful trinity and one with which the public should be cognizant in order that they may be warned of the sharp danger that lies in even curiously tasting poisons which have been inhibited, or which are habit-forming.

Although Murphy was not an authority on drugs her book was the influence for the inclusion of marijuanathe Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1923 which made cannabis illegal in Canada. Tobacco was also on the table but Mackenzie King argued that it was not addictive. Whipping and deportation were added to the law by Emily’s request.

You can read the Black Candle online here:  Black Candle Online