Canada Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, and a National Experiment Begins

MONTREAL — Canada on Wednesday became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana, beginning a national experiment that will alter the country’s social, cultural and economic fabric, and present the nation with its biggest public policy challenge in decades.

Across the country, as government pot retailers opened from Newfoundland to British Columbia, jubilant Canadians waited for hours in line to buy the first state-approved joints. For many, it was a seminal moment, akin to the ending of Prohibition in the United States in the 1930s.

It was also an unlikely unifier, coming at a time when Canada has been buffeted by bruising trade talks with the United States and has seen its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, repeatedly ridiculed by President Trump. Canada is the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to legalize marijuana.

“I have never felt so proud to be Canadian,” said Marco Beaulieu, 29, a janitor, as he waited with friends outside a government cannabis retailer in the east end of Montreal. “Canada is once again a progressive global leader. We have gay rights, feminism, abortion rights, and now we can smoke pot without worrying police are going to arrest us.”

Canadians broadly support marijuana legalization, but amid the euphoria, there was also caution.

“Legalization of cannabis is the largest public policy shift this country has experienced in the past five decades,” said Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety.

“It’s an octopus with many tentacles, and there are many unknowns,” he added. “I don’t think that when the federal government decided to legalize marijuana it thought through all of the implications.

In a stinging editorial published on Monday, for example, the Canadian Medical Association Journal called the government’s legalization plan an “uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.”

It called on the government to promise to change the law if it leads to increased marijuana use.

Under Canada’s new federal cannabis act, adults will be allowed to possess, carry and share with other adults up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, enough to roll roughly 60 regular-size joints. They will also be permitted a maximum of four homegrown marijuana plants per household in most provinces.

Marijuana for medical purposes has been legal in Canada since 2001, and about 330,000 Canadians, including cancer patients, are registered to receive it from licensed producers.

Pre-rolled joints, fresh or dried marijuana flowers, and cannabis oil are all permitted under the law. Cannabis edibles — like pot-infused jelly beans, peanut butter and coffee — won’t be legal for another year.

According to Canada’s national statistics office, 4.9 million Canadians used cannabis last year and consumed more than 20 grams of marijuana per person.

On Wednesday morning, the government announced that it would introduce legislation to make it easier for Canadians who had been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to obtain a pardon.

While the government is not offering a blanket amnesty, Ralph Goodale, the public safety minister, said at a news conference in Ottawa that as “a matter of basic fairness,” the government would seek to end the minimum waiting period of five years to apply for a pardon as well as waiving the fee of 631 Canadian dollars.

Original Article by NY Times

Victor MadrilComment