Canada became the latest country to legalise the use of recreational cannabis, with the first legal purchase occurring on 17 October in Newfoundland.
Medical cannabis use has been both legal and heavily regulated in Canada since 2001, but the Trudeau administration introduced the Cannabis Act to take control of the drug from criminal industry and allow the government to safely regulate it.
In June, the Act gave Canadian provinces eight to twelve weeks to create a regulatory framework for the sale of cannabis. As of October, it is legal to buy cannabis and cannabis oil from licensed sellers and online, with the ability to possess up to 30 grams in public and grow four plants at home.
The new regulation does still mean that certain cannabis related actions are still illegal; the provinces are allowed to set their own age to purchase the drug, while cannabis-infused foods are still in the process of being federally regulated. Selling the drug to minors has also been more harshly enforced with a potential jail sentence of up to 14 years.
The Act is expected to pull in more than $400 million in tax revenue, leading to criticism from opposition parties such as the Canadian Conservatives whose leader, Andrew Scheer, suggested that legalisation would only normalise consumption of the drug.
The Cannabis Act also presents a number of problems for border relations with the USA. The two nations share the world’s largest continual land border and cannabis consumption is still illegal in much of the US, potentially forcing border guards to adopt new policies to prevent trafficking of the drug.
However, the trend in recent years does seem to favour legalisation with ‘coffee shops’ being introduced in the Netherlands in 1976, and Uruguay becoming the first country to legalise it for recreational use in 2013. Nine US states have legalised the drug, and a number of countries, such as South Africa, have decriminalised the private use of cannabis. While strong opposition still exists, Canada is taking part in a seemingly global move away from strict criminalisation of the drug.