Last week Wednesday, kicking off in Newfoundland, Canada opened its legal marijuana marketplace. Despite having just begun, it is already the biggest pot market in the world. The much-anticipated opening came with extra news: In addition to permitting legal marijuana sales, the country wants to pardon anyone stuck with a conviction for low-level, non-violent, marijuana crimes.
Legal Marijuana in Canada
Cannabis has legal medicinally in Canada since 2001, but exclusively for legitimate medical patients. For the last two years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has been working feverishly to expand its medical pot program to include recreational weed for anyone of legal age and older. Besides the issue of denying people their basic rights, the intention has other goals too.
The purpose of legalizing recreational marijuana is two-pronged. Society is changing its perception of cannabis at a rapid pace, ditching the stigma associated with it for a more open-minded approach. Trudeau’s government wants its marijuana laws to reflect public opinion, and the public wants it legal. Additionally, legal marijuana sales would force illegal black market dealers into a regulated system.
Legal Marijuana Sales Now Reality
Canada is not the first country to legalize cannabis recreationally. Uruguay has that honor. However, it is the biggest legal marketplace in the world now, which is a feat for the history books. Tom Clarke, who has been trading pot illegally for 30 years, was one of the first to make a legal sale at midnight, Canadian time, in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
His little store is but one of 111 other legal retail outlets expected to open doors nationwide and service 37 million people. According to a survey of the provinces by The Associated Press, however, more stores will open as the industry grows and adapts to supply this massive demand. Fortunately, until then, Canadians have other options to access high-quality cannabis.
The country also allows mail order delivery. Consumers can order pot online and have it sent through the mail, provided they buy solely from licensed private retailers or government-run provinces. Doing so offers folks legal and safe cannabis delivery, direct to their homes via mail order delivery. Canada has been delivering medical marijuana through its mail service since 2001. It is simply expanding this to all.
Canada Pardons Weed Convictions
This is extremely good news for cannabis aficionados. In speaking with The Associated Press just hours before retail sales began in the country’s easternmost territory, a federal official said that Canada would pardon every single person convicted for possessing 30 grams of pot or less, since that is the country’s newly legal threshold, provided they apply, of course.
Planned for late on Wednesday afternoon, the formal announcement gives people, even more, to celebrate on Canada’s opening day for legal pot. Unauthorized to speak publically ahead of the announcement, the federal official said that anybody wanting to take advantage of the country’s expungement of weed convictions must apply for their pardon.
Legal Marijuana Regulations
You must be 18-years or older to buy legal pot in Quebec and Alberta. In other provinces and territories, the legal age requirement is 19-years old. In Toronto, the country’s most populous province, there will be no stores opening until its government completes its drafting of required regulations. Officials do not think this will happen before spring next year.
For ordinary folks, legalization is very overdue. Ryan Bose, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said, “Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever.” It is about time. As each province and territory decides on its own rules within the framework set out by the federal government, regulations are a bit of a patchwork blanket.
Some provinces are only allowing government-run stores to sell weed legally. Some will only permit private retailers into this space. Others are happy to allow both to operate in their jurisdictions. Nationally, Canada is making way for unfettered banking in the newly legal industry, shipping of cannabis inter-provincially, and investments worth billions of dollars.
State of Legalization in United States
Currently, recreational pot is legal in nine U.S. states. Medical marijuana is legal in more than 30. It is illegal both recreationally and medically at the federal level. California, the country’s biggest legal market, approved a law earlier this month mandating expungement of criminal convictions for weed-related violations that are now legal.
For Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, the U.S. government should follow the lead set by Canada. In a statement, he said, “Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Customers and Border Protection invited media houses in Canada to a conference call, where they reiterated the illegal status of cannabis under U.S. federal law and reminded the country that it would arrest and prosecute anyone caught in possession of marijuana at the border. If you ever need to cross borders, do not take cannabis with you.
Challenges for Legal Marijuana in Canada
As Canada opens its doors to legal marijuana sales, supply shortages are extremely likely to occur, which is exactly what happened in most U.S. states that chose to legalize. Chief executive of Fire and Flower, Trevor Fencott, says that despite having staffed and made ready 15 pot stores in Alberta, by Wednesday, the province had sent only enough product to supply three of them.
As Fencott explained, “We are aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months.” However, others are more positive. Brenda Tobin and Trevor, her son, opened their store in Labrador City at exactly 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, in honor of the global 420 phenomena.
Tobin, who has been running a convenience store for many years, cut a cake and ribbon for the occasion. “We are just ecstatic,” she said. However, Tobin does not expect to profit much of the weed itself, since Newfoundland and most other provinces and territories are capping their prices at eight percent. Instead, she will profit selling bongs, pipes, and other cannabis paraphernalia and accessories.
“There is no money in the product itself,” Tobin explained. “You have to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That is not even paying someone’s salary.” Experts commend Canada for keeping prices low, as this will benefit consumers, undercut the illegal marketplace, and keep the cannabis industry competitive.