Today marks the official legalization of cannabis in Canada.
Canada, following in the footsteps of Uruguay, is only the second nation in the world and is the first G7 nation to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001.
Starting today, Canadian citizens who are at least 19 (or just 18 in Quebec or Alberta) can buy cannabis online from existing licensed producers or — depending on their province — at certain government-licensed storefronts.
Unfortunately for enthusiastic consumers, however, recent reports indicate that most Canadians will not have access to a dispensary at market launch. In fact, in British Columbia — the province with the highest rate of cannabis use — there will be just one storefront available at first; in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, dispensaries will not be able to open their doors until springtime at the earliest.
Shortly before legalization took effect, officials in Ottawa also announced the government would issue pardons for Canadian citizens with criminal possession charges of 30 grams or less of cannabis, according to a Global News report.
“We will be introducing a new law to make things fairer for Canadians who have been convicted for possession of cannabis. It becomes a matter of basic fairness when older laws from a previous era are changed.” — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, during an early Wednesday morning press conference
Canadians can also grow their own cannabis and buy seeds or clones but, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a cannabis seed shortage is expected during the early days of legalization.
The Canadian government has also launched information campaigns to educate citizens about the effects and realities of cannabis. So far, the BBC reports, 15 million households have received information in preparation for today’s major policy shift.
Canada’s legalization plan was first announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a campaign platform during the build-up to his 2015 election win.
“I’m actually not in favor of decriminalizing cannabis. I’m in favor of legalizing it,” then-candidate Trudeau said in 2013. “Tax it, regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids because the current war on drugs, the current model is not working. We have to use evidence and science to make sure we’re moving forward on that.”
Following his electoral victory, Trudeau wasted little time in tasking his newly empowered Liberal government to undo cannabis prohibition, though the process has taken well over two years.