By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Canada has become the second country to legalise recreational marijuana. It follows Uruguay, which became the first country in the world to legalise it in 2013. At the stroke of midnight on October 17, the first recreational marijuana to be legally bought was purchased on the eastern island of Newfoundland.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001. The legalisation of recreational marijuana has been mooted since Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau entered office in 2015. The government had intended for legalisation to occur on July 1, 2018 - but the necessary bill did not pass its third reading in the House of Commons until the autumn.
Under Bill C-45 - or the Cannabis Act - from the federal government, adults will be allowed to possess, carry and share with other adults up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. That's enough to roll around 60 regular-size joints, according to the New York Times. If you are caught with more than 30 grams out in public, you can still face up to five years in prison. The minimum age to smoke recreational marijuana in most cases is 18 - although some provinces have set it to 19. Adults will also be permitted to grow four marijuana plants per household in most provinces.
But that's where it gets a bit confusing. The legalisation of recreational marijuana has come from the federal government, but it will be up to the provinces how to enact it. In some, you will be able to buy marijuana from government stores, and in others, it is available in private stores. And to confuse things more, in some provinces, there will be a mix between the two.
In Ontario, for instance, you will have to wait until April 1 next year to buy recreational marijuana from stores. In the meantime, you can only buy it online in Canada's most populous province. In British Colombia, there is only one shop offering it - otherwise, you can buy it online or from the government.
Recreational marijuana will be widely available in Alberta with 17 private retailers across the province. However, Calgary - Alberta's biggest city - has banned the use of recreational marijuana in public, and those who fall foul of the ban could face a $100 fine.
Don't rush to buy anything on the day of legalisation either, the Guardian warns. While the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana may have been purchased on Wednesday, there could be a two- or three-month transition period before cannabis may be legally bought or sold.
The Canadian government predicts it will raise $400 million a year in tax revenues on the sale of cannabis. The cost of recreational marijuana will depend on the quality. Quebec shops plan to have many strains available at around $7 or less per gram, in order to stay competitive with the black market. A special marijuana excise tax will be divided between the federal government and the provinces, plus the sales tax added at the cash register.