Recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in Canada after the Senate passed a “historic” bill on Tuesday with a vote of 52-29.
Canada is only the second country in the world — and the first G7 nation — to implement legislation to permit a nationwide marijuana market. In the neighboring US, nine states and the District of Columbia now allow for recreational marijuana use, and 30 allow for medical use.
Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Cannabis Act, stems from a campaign pledge of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep marijuana away from underage users and reduce related crime.
The act to legalize the recreational use of weed was first introduced on April 13, 2017, and was later passed at the House of Commons in November. The Senate passage of the bill was the final hurdle in the process.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana’s production, sale and consumption in December 2013.
Although the Canadian government had initially stated its intent to implement by July 2018, provinces and territories, who will be responsible for drafting their own rules for marijuana sales, have advised that they would need eight to 12 weeks after the Senate approval to transition to the new framework.
The government is expected to choose a date in early or mid September.
On Twitter, Trudeau praised the bill and focused on Canada’s youth.
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate,” he tweeted.
The justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, also applauded the vote.
“This is an historic milestone for progressive policy in Canada,” she tweeted. “This legislation will help protect our youth from the risks of cannabis while keeping profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.”
What’s legal and what’s not
Once the bill is formally approved, adults will be able to carry and share up to 30 grams of legal marijuana in public. They also will be allowed to cultivate up to four plants in their households and prepare products such as edibles for personal use.
However, stringent rules will still govern the purchase and use of marijuana.
Consumers are expected to purchase marijuana from retailers regulated by provinces, territories or — when neither of those options are available — federally licensed producers. Marijuana will also not be sold in the same location as alcohol or tobacco.
The Canadian government has also implemented changes to their impaired driving laws, to address repercussions for driving under the influence of cannabis.
The bill set a floor on the minimum age of the consumer at 18 years, and makes the production, distribution, or sale of cannabis products an offense for minors.
While provinces can increase the minimum age, the intent is to continue to discourage Canadian youth from pot use, by establishing many of the same restrictions that exist for cigarettes and other tobacco products.
C-45 is also expected to spark a billion-dollar industry, given total spending on marijuana could surge as high as 58%, especially as users are expected to be willing to pay a premium for legal access to the drug.
In the United States, BDS Analytics estimated that the pot industry took in nearly $9 billion in sales in 2017. The revenue from the sales is equivalent to the entire snack bar industry.
As a result, the attempts to legalize cannibas for recreational use have caused Canadian marijuana companies like Canopy Growth Corp., Aphria Inc., and Aurora Cannabis Inc. to become the center of investor frenzy.
As provinces decide local rules of implementation, marijuana availability will vary across the country. In Alberta, recreational weed will be widely available at more than 200 private retailers across the province. On the opposite end of the spectrum, marijuana availability will only be provided in 40 state-run shops in Ontario. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it will be available in Loblaws grocery stores.