Poppers in Canada: A History of Homophobia and Legal Status

Poppers are a popular recreational drug that has been around for decades. They are typically sold as a small bottle of liquid, which is inhaled to produce a short-lived high. Poppers contain alkyl nitrites, a chemical that was initially used to treat angina but later gained popularity as a recreational drug.

However, the use of poppers in Canada has been tied to homophobia, and the drug's legal status has been controversial. In this article, we will delve into the history of poppers in Canada, their legal status past and present, efforts to legitimize the drug, and how Canada compares to other countries where poppers are allowed.

The History of Poppers in Canada

Poppers have been around since the 1960s, and their use became prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s among the gay community. The drug was commonly used to enhance sexual pleasure and was seen as an essential part of gay culture. However, poppers' association with the gay community also led to homophobic attitudes towards the drug.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Canadian government classified poppers as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This classification meant that the drug was illegal to sell or possess without a prescription.

The Criminal Code of Canada also prohibited the sale of "substances that produce an intoxicating effect when inhaled." This law was aimed at restricting the sale of inhalants, such as glue and aerosols, but also applied to poppers.

However, despite the legal status, poppers remained popular among the gay community in Canada. The stigma associated with the drug and its association with homosexuality remained, and the drug was often associated with unsafe sex practices and the spread of HIV.

Current Legal Status of Poppers in Canada

In 2013, Health Canada proposed to ban poppers altogether, citing their potential harm to users' health. However, after backlash from the gay community, the government backtracked and instead allowed for the continued sale of the drug as long as it contained lower levels of alkyl nitrites.

Currently, poppers are legal in Canada but only if they contain specific ingredients and meet specific labeling requirements. The drug can only be sold as a consumer product and must be labeled as a "Vapour Product for Intended Use in Aromatherapy."

Efforts to Legitimize Poppers in Canada

In recent years, there have been efforts to legitimize poppers in Canada, with some advocates calling for the drug's recreational use to be decriminalized.

In 2018, the Toronto Pride Festival announced that it would allow the sale of poppers at its events. This decision was controversial, with some members of the LGBTQ+ community claiming that poppers were associated with unsafe sex practices and should not be allowed at a family-friendly event.

However, supporters argued that poppers were an essential part of LGBTQ+ culture and that their use should be normalized and celebrated.

Canada Compared to Other Countries

Poppers are legal in many countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. In the United States, poppers are legal to possess but are illegal to sell for human consumption.

n the United Kingdom, poppers were initially classified as a psychoactive substance under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. However, in 2018, the government backtracked and exempted poppers from the act, allowing the drug to be sold legally.

France and Australia also allow the sale of poppers, although they have specific labeling requirements similar to those in Canada.