Canada became the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize cannabis on a national level on October 17, 2018. A bill passed by the Canadian Parliament in June, Bill C-45, went into effect today, allowing adults across Canada to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana (roughly an ounce) and grow up to four plants per household. However, each province may pass additional regulations for legal cannabis.
British Columbia, for example, has increased the age to 19 years old. Quebec may be raising the minimum age to 21 in the future. Quebec, along with Manitoba, have banned home grows. Areas for consumption of marijuana also vary by province and local jurisdiction.
Workplaces are also implementing their own policies about cannabis use. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Service have issued policies indicating that employees are not to consume marijuana within 28 days of a shift, and the Calgary Police Service has banned marijuana use by “sworn members who are qualified to carry firearms and are able to be operationally deployed.”
Bill C-45 only legalized cannabis in flower and oil form for recreational sale, so for now, no marijuana-infused products such as edibles will be available for purchase. The law does allow people to craft their own edibles in the comfort of their homes, but packaged edibles are not expected to be addressed for some time.
The medical marijuana market will continue to operate in Canada. Roughly 300,000 Canadians have medical cards, which allow them to possess up to 150 grams of marijuana at a time.
As of Wednesday, October 17, there are fewer than 200 retailers across Canada open for business, with more expected to open in the coming months. British Columbia (BC) will begin with one government-run store; Quebec offers 12 provincial outlets (3 on the island of Montreal alone), and is expected to reach 20 (also government-run by Société Québécoise du Cannabis [SQDC]) in the next few months. Ontario will not have a brick and mortar store open until April of next year; until then, consumers will have to purchase marijuana online from a government-run site. Saskatchewan will have 51 privately-run stores; Alberta will have 17 privately-run stores, but will also offer government-run online sales.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, speaking on Wednesday, said, “One of the things that we recognized is that there has been a failure of public policy. The prohibition on marijuana has not worked in this country.” Previously, he has stated that the legalization of cannabis in Canada would be a slow process rather than happening all at once. He also reiterated that he is not a consumer of marijuana, although he has tried it in the past, but has “no intention” of using it now that it is legal.
Last night, as the clock approached midnight, revelers gathered around a symbolic “bud” of marijuana at a concert hall, waiting for the bud to drop at midnight, reminiscent of the famous Times Square ball drop on New Years Eve. Outside a store in Montreal, a line of people waiting at the same time stretched the length of a city block.
In addition to the opening of the recreational stores around the country, the Canadian government announced this morning that they will be introducing new legislation that will make it easier to obtain a pardon for Canadians who have prior convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The Canadian Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, said at a press conference in Ottawa that the government would be ending the waiting period for pardon applications (which is currently five years) and would also seek to waive a fee for that pardon which currently costs 631 Canadian dollars. Mr. Goodale clarified that this would not be an offering of blanket amnesty, but said, “We will make the application as simple as it can be.” It is estimated that up to 500,000 Canadians have some criminal record for marijuana possession.
The national legalization of cannabis in Canada is expected to create a $5 billion industry (6.5 billion Canadian dollars) by 2020, and Canada is expecting an increase in tourists coming from the United States to visit their recreational marijuana shops.