Canada has become the first nation of the G7 to legalize recreational weed Wednesday while those incarcerated for possession of 30 grams or less are expected to be pardoned.
After nearly a century-long ban, Canadians 18 years and older can now legally smoke recreationally, own up to four plants for personal use, and share up to 30 grams of weed. Possession will still be an offense for minors.
Newfoundland and Labrador began the first legal marijuana sales at midnight. Among the first in line were residents Ian Power and Nikki Rose.
"I came out tonight to be the first person in Canada to purchase the first legal gram of recreational cannabis, to help see the end of prohibition in Canada finally," Power said. "I'm having a plaque made with the date and time and everything. This is never actually going to be smoked. I'm going to keep it forever."
Larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver will not be seeing the same buzz as no stores have opened for business. Toronto sits in the providence of Ontario, where no physical stores will open until April of next year. That’s because a new provincial government altered Ontario’s retail model.
The only legal retailer there is a government-run online store. Owners of illegal dispensaries which have emerged in the last few years were given the option to apply for a retail license so long as they closed their doors on Oct. 17. If they don’t, they would be met with warnings at first, and then escalating consequences.
However, that’s not stopping some from running their businesses.
A co-owner of a dispensary told The Canadian Press that the period leading up to April “is where the money’s at. After that, they’ll be open on every corner so now’s the time to make money.”
Those who have been charged for possession of 30 grams or less are expected to be able to apply for a pardon, a senior government official told Time Magazine ahead of Wednesday's announcement.
In 2016, more than half of all drug-related offenses involved cannabis, according to the research and statistics division of Canada’s justice department.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to legalize cannabis in his 2015 election campaign. His pledge was intended to reduce profits from organized crime while regulating the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana. The drug was first outlawed in 1923, 14 years before the U.S.
In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the cultivation, production, and sale of weed. Legal distribution to citizens took effect in 2017.