Today, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, after 95-years of prohibition, Canada is set to become only the second country in the world and the first G7 country and major economy to legalize marijuana for all uses. Uruguay was the first country.
Last night, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, hundreds of customers had lined up around the block at a private store by the time the clock struck midnight. A celebratory atmosphere broke out, with some customers lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support as they drove by the crowd.
“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said one of the first buyers. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”
Later today, the government will announce a program to make it easier for Canadians previously convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to obtain a pardon, according to an anonymous official familiar with the plan.
Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and the current government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include recreational marijuana. The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system. The 120 businesses already licensed to grow medical marijuana are now poised to serve people who simply want to get high.
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While all this hype and excitement makes it sound like a free-for-all, there are still strict rules and regulations in place. Here’s what you need to know:
- Where can I buy marijuana in Canada? In either government and/or privately owned stores (depending on the province). No bar or restaurant will be able to sell you marijuana. Yet.
- What can I buy? Initially, only fresh or dried flower, seeds, plants, and oil will be available. Edibles, for example, gummy bears and brownies, will not be legal until next year.
- How much will it cost? That will depend on quality and location. Quebec, for example, plans to have many strains available at around $7CAD per gram, or less.
- Will it be taxed? A special marijuana excise tax, to be shared between the federal government and the provinces, will be included in the price; sales tax will be added at the cash register.
- Who can buy it? The legal age for marijuana use will be 19 in most provinces, and 18 in Quebec, although its newly elected government has vowed to raise the minimum age to 21. It will be a federal crime to supply marijuana to minors — with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.
- How much can I own? Recreational Canadian users will be allowed to possess, carry and share with other adults up to 30 grams of marijuana (for medicinal users, it’s 150g)
- Where can I smoke? Like drinking booze and smoking cigarettes, the smoking of weed in public places will be limited, depending on the province. In Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, outside Calgary, people will be able to smoke weed where they can smoke cigarettes. In Halifax, there will be designated toking zones. Many hotels and landlords are banning marijuana smoking. SMoking marijuana in workplaces is illegal.
- Can I grow my own? Yep, up to 4 plants (except in Quebec and Manitoba)
- Can I smoke and drive? What do you reckon?! If you are caught driving while high, you will face a fine of at least $1,000 CAD. Penalties can also include up to five years in prison for cases that do not result in injury or death, or life for cases causing death.
- What about crossing the border? Canadians who admit at the border to using marijuana may be refused admission, according to the United States border authorities. But the border agency said it would not routinely quiz Canadian travelers about their cannabis habits after Wednesday.
The government requires that marijuana is sold in plain packages that feature large health warnings and tiny logos, and the legislation also heavily restricts advertising.
But how much will really change? Canada’s national census bureau found that 42.5% of Canadians have already tried weed before, and 16% used it in the last three months. The biggest impact will be felt in the business world, with initial estimates that the Canadian weed industry will reach $6.5 billion in retail sales by 2020.
So, there you have it Canadian weed smokers, light-up and celebrate your new found freedom.