Canada Officially Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Marijuana activist Chris Lawson makes a speech on stage during a rally in support of legalizing marijuana on June 5, 2004 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada.
Donald Weber / Getty Images

On Wednesday Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, becoming the globe’s largest country where recreational marijuana can be legally purchased, as reported by the Associated Press.

When the clock struck midnight in Newfoundland, Canada’s most eastern province, stores began to open and legal sales started being made. Among those taking part in the new marketplace is Tom Clarke, who spent three decades illegally dealing marijuana before opening a shop in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Clarke said, “I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now.”

The only other country where recreational marijuana can be purchased is Uruguay, which legalized it in 2017.

According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press, the first day of legalization will see 111 shops open for the country’s 37 million residents, with the market expected to grow rapidly.

One location where no stores will open is Canada’s most populous province of Ontario, home to the country’s biggest city in Toronto, which has experienced delays in crafting local legislation and doesn’t expect to have stores opening in the province before next spring.

Despite the lack of stores in some parts of the country, all Canadians can legally have marijuana products delivered by mail to their homes and can purchase them through online stores ran by provinces or private retailers.

The legalization of recreational marijuana also comes with a clean slate for pre-legal recreational marijuana users, as in the hours before legalization became official a member of the government told the Associated Press that all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana will be pardoned. The legal threshold for possession of marijuana is now 30 grams.

The formal announcement of the pardons will be coming later on Wednesday. While the official who spoke to the Associated Press was not legally authorized to reveal the information before the announcement, the source did add that those seeking pardons would have to apply.

Canada legalized medicinal marijuana in 2001 and in the days leading up to the recreational legalization, those in the industry began to prepare like any other retail opening, by training employees, holding mock openings, and building displays.

Roseanne Dampier, a former welder who is opening a licensed store with her husband in Edmonton, Alberta, called Alternative Greens, described the experience, saying, “It’s been hectic. We have been extremely busy just trying to be able to meet that deadline.”