Our neighbors to the north have been enjoying the legal high life since October 17, when Canada became the second country to legalize cannabis nationally, after Uruguay, and the first G7 country to do so. As more and more states slowly move toward legalization, we look at just how innovative Canada is in its monumental legalization.

The History

Prohibition of cannabis in Canada first came into effect in 1923 amid concerns about use of drugs, including opium. Illegal cannabis use became more common in Canada in the 1930s and experienced a resurgence in the 1960s; efforts to decriminalize cannabis came forth in the 1970s but never passed.

The recent legalization initiative was announced by now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (nicknamed “Trudope” for posterity) in his campaign platform for the 2015 federal election. The Cannabis Act gained approval from Canada’s House of Commons in November 2017 and Canada’s Senate in June 2018, making the sale of cannabis legal across the provinces, allowing Canadians of legal age to consume cannabis and permitting each household to legally grow four plants.

Within a year, Canada’s legal cannabis market is expected to be worth $4.3 billion.  

The High Notes

  • Health Canada estimated before the law took effect that almost 5 million recreational cannabis users out of the national population of more than 36 million would take advantage of the legalized recreational market. As millions of Canadians lined up outside province-run cannabis stores and placed their orders online, Canada quickly learned that more citizens than estimated were ready to puff on legal cannabis.
  • Within the first few hours of legal cannabis sales, a shortage became imminent as brick-and-mortar stores sold out of product. The predicted volume of supply only met 320-60 percent of the demand for cannabis.
  • The first legal gram of cannabis was sold at 12:01 a.m. October 17, 2018, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province with a time zone advantage.
  • Celebrating the dawning of a new era in cannabis across Canada, imbibers lit up in the streets. In most provinces it is legal to smoke cannabis wherever it is legal to smoke cigarettes, as long as it is not near children, schools or areas where children learn and play.
  • On October 17 Canadian law enforcement meant business, ticketing people across the country for smoking cannabis in vehicles—an act that is prohibited under the Cannabis Act.
  • The legal age to buy cannabis is 19 except for Quebec and Alberta, where it is 18. In Quebec, the new premier has proposed raising the legal age to purchase cannabis within the province to 21, citing concerns about the brain still being in development until age 25.
  • Some have referred to Canada’s cannabis law as the “legalization experiment.” Whether this new era of legal cannabis promises to be the green rush some have hoped for, Canadians just got a lot friendlier.