The legalization of marijuana is a controversial topic. In the United States, pot is still illegal at the federal level, but several states have legalized the sale of medical cannabis and decriminalized recreational use as well. As more government officials and public health experts debate the issue, our neighbors to the north, in Canada, have gone ahead and legalized the sale of the popular plant nationwide.
The move makes Canada the world's largest legal marketplace for pot. Legalization went into effect earlier in October. Shoppers in the province of Newfoundland, which is in the Atlantic time zone, were the first to avail themselves of the new law since its position in the eastern part of the country means the day begins there earlier than the rest of Canada. In a store in St. John's, Newfoundland, residents lined up to purchase the first legal weed ever sold. While the debate over whether or not to allow the sale of pot for recreational users was fierce, the country has had legal medical marijuana available all over Canada since 2001. Attitudes about the use of cannabis have changed a great deal since then, and citizens were ready to embrace the economic benefits selling weed can bring, regarding tax revenue and tourism.
Tom Clarke is a shop owner in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland and was one of the first retailers to ring up a sale of the plant. Clarke has a long history with advocacy of marijuana sales and was an illegal dealer for almost thirty years. Clarke was quoted in a CNBC article saying, "This is awesome. I've been waiting my whole life for this. I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border." The first sale he made was to his father, who told the press that his son's middle name was Herb and he is often called THC by friends and family members.
There were 111 shops across Canada that opened on the first day, but more are expected. Local regulations are still being worked out in some areas. The provinces of Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age to purchase weed at 18, while other regions have it at 19. So far there are no stores open in the province of Ontario, as they are still hammering out details and other legal matters, but stores there will likely open in the spring of 2019, if not sooner.
The Canadian government has taken an additional step concerning marijuana and released a statement from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that confirmed that the Liberal government would introduce a bill to allow people with past convictions for possession of the herbal drug to apply for a pardon of their conviction. There will be no waiting period required and no fee to apply, allowing Canadians easier access to clearing their records. In other crimes, when a convicted person asks for a pardon, there is a hefty fee and a waiting period of between three and ten years after their conviction. Goodale stated, "We will be introducing a new law to make things fairer for Canadians who have been convicted for possession of cannabis. It becomes a matter of basic fairness when older laws from a previous era are changed." Check out the happy shoppers in St. John's, Newfoundland in the video below.