Canada about to become largest country in the world to completely legalise recreational marijuana

Uruguay legalised its recreational use last year

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Monday 15 October 2018 17:29 BST
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Canada is set to become the largest country in the world - and only the second - to fully legalise recreational marijuana, a move that will bring cheers to the millions of Canadians who already use the drug and establish an industry likely to be worth millions of dollars.

“All the talk at Starbucks this morning was about 10-17,” tweeted Tony Dean, who sponsored a bill in the Canadian senate to legalise marijuana, referring to the date on Wednesday when the new law takes effect. “It took a few seconds to figure it out. So here goes #10-17.”

The shift from illegal to legal followed a decision this summer by the Canadian parliament, with the Senate voting 52-29 in favour of legalisation. The lower chamber, the House of Commons, had voted in favour of the Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Cannabis Act, the day before.

“Parliament has now passed Bill C-45…Today I’m also pleased to announce that the new recreational cannabis regime will officially come into force on October 17 of this year,” prime minister Justin Trudeau said after the June vote.

“We heard from provinces and territories who told us they needed more time to transition to this new framework, so our government will continue to work in full partnership with them, to ensure the smooth and orderly implementation of this new law across Canada.”

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Hilary Black, a leading cannabis activists, who now works on patient advocacy and education for Canopy Growth Corporation, the world’s largest cannabis company, told the New York Times: “It’s a day in Canadian history we’ll look back on and be proud of. We are very much taking a strong leadership position on the global stage.”

The move marked the completion of a pledge that had been made by Mr Trudeau when he campaigned for, and won, the country’s premiership in 2015.

He argued criminalising the drug in a nation where people spend C$5.7bn ($4.6bn £3.5bn) on medical and recreational cannabis, the bulk of it on black market marijuana, was ruining the lives of young people convicted of minor crimes such as possession, and helping organised crime benefit from prohibition.

Canada is not the first country to legalise recreational marijuana; Uruguay did so last year. But Canada is larger - it's population is 36.2m compared to Uruguay's 3.4m, it is a member of both Nato and the G-7, and its move is likely to give ammunition to pro-marijuana activists in the US, where recreational use of the drug is legal in nine states, plus Washington DC.

A further 13 states have decriminalised its use.

The Canadian Press said while the federal government wanted to implement the new rules in July, provinces and territories, who will be responsible for drafting their own rules for marijuana sales, said they needed three months to prepare for the transition.

Yahoo News said the market for cannabis in Canada had the potential to be huge - including the sale and purchase of cannabis edibles. According to research by Arcview Market Research, spending on edibles in the US alone topped $1n last year. Arcview estimated that figure could reach $4.1bn by 2022 for the two nations.

“The edibles market is up for grabs. We’re already seeing mainstream beverage companies scrambling to take advantage of part of this significant opportunity,” the report said.

The minimum age for use will be 18 or 19, with the provinces having the right to decide which. The Canadian Medical Association had recommended a minimum age of 21.

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