Canada became the first country to legalize recreational use of pot on Wednesday (Oct. 17), but response was tepid – in part because its largest cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, haven’t opened up stores yet.
According to a report in Reuters, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province, were the first to kick off sales, with more than 100 people lining up outside a Tweed store that is owned by Canopy. Following the close of a century-long ban, Canadian adults can now smoke pot without facing any legal ramifications.
“There will be a lot of celebrations on the day, and it will almost all be with illegal cannabis” in some of Canada’s biggest cities, said Brad Poulos, an instructor and cannabis business expert at Ryerson University in Toronto. “Recreational cannabis users in Canada … will just continue with their (existing) sources of supply until the legal system catches up.”
Ontario, home to Toronto, the country’s most populous city, won’t have any pot stores until April of 2019 because of changes to the province’s retail model, noted Reuters. Meanwhile, British Columbia only has one store that is government-owned, which is 220 miles from Vancouver, its biggest city. In addition to visiting stores in Canada, consumers are allowed to purchase marijuana online from provincial governments or from retailers who are licensed, with delivery taking a few days.
The legalization of marijuana in Canada is a big win for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he would legalize pot use when he was running back in 2015. The idea is to take profits away from organized criminals and regulate the production, distribution and consumption that is already readily available illegally.
“The criminal prohibition that was in effect for a century in this country has failed our kids and our community,” Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction, told reporters. He said the change will result in “order to every aspect of the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis.”
Reuters noted that in the provinces where there are stores, many of the shelves are empty due to what could be a shortage of pot. The publication pointed to a study by the University of Waterloo and the C.D. Howe Institute, an economic policy think tank, which found that legal supply of marijuana in Canada will meet less than 60 percent of the demand in the beginning months. That is expected to change as supply increases, noted the report.