OTTAWA: With six time zones and at the stroke of midnight Wednesday in each of these zones across the country, recreational marijuana has become legal, making Canada the second country in the world after Uruguay to decriminalise marijuana.

October 17 marks a historic day for this nation of 36 million people as Canada lifted prohibitions and permit the sale and distribution of marijuana.

Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada, became the first province to sell recreational marijuana legally at a store called Tweed in St. John’s.

Among the Group of 7 nations, it is also the first to make marijuana use legal, a 2015 election campaign promise made good by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

Office of the Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette estimates the number of cannabis consumers aged 15 and over will rise from 4.6 million to 5.2 million by 2021, meaning, by the government’s count, at least 600,000 people who do not use cannabis intend to start after it is legal to do so.

After Trudeau announced that recreational marijuana would become legal in Canada when the Canadian Senate passed the Bill, called the Cannabis Act, on June 20, it erupted into headline news across the world, and triggered questions which other countries would follow suit.

Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, is now law. The bill received royal assent on June 21 at a ceremony presided over by Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette.

Marijuana remains an illegal drug all over the world with serious consequences.

In Canada’s largest city of Toronto, Mayor John Tory revealed he had some jitters, calling on the province to step up to help ensure recreational pot does not become a burning issue, and that city officials and Toronto Police should closely monitor and report on impact of legal marijuana.

What most of the 10 Canadian provinces have in common is their lack of robust education campaigns ready for launch at the time of legalisation.

Canada’s Cannabis Act embodies a strict legal framework with regards to the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across the country, with provisions to keep cannabis from youth, ensure profits are kept from criminals as well as to protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to safe and legal cannabis.

The Act permits adults, 18 years and over, to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, share up to 30 grams with other adults and purchase cannabis or cannabis oil from a retailer.

An adult is permitted to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use, in addition to being able to make legal cannabis-containing products at home.

New penalties for offences under the new law range from a police citation to 14 years in prison.

The sale of cannabis edible products and concentrates would be authorised no later than 12 months after the Act has come into force.

The Cannabis Act is a fulfilment of an election promise of Trudeau’s Liberal Party, in 2015, and according to the Prime Minister, a new system would now be in place with the enactment of the law.

There are concerns the industry will produce far more marijuana in future, a situation that has been common in US states where cannabis is legalised.

Still, the Cannabis Act makes it a serious new criminal offence to sell the drug to minors and the importation of cannabis and cannabis products as well as exporting them with a valid permit, would remain illegal.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said Canada would need to do better in dealing wth cannabis when it comes to protecting public health and safety, stemming the flow of profits to organised crime, and keeping the drug from teenagers who are among the biggest users in the West.

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Jane Philpott said criminalisation of cannabis had failed to deter young people from using it while pointing out that alcohol and tobacco are available but with restrictions.

Of the drug offences in Canada, more than half are cannabis-related and in 2016 alone, reported to police, with the majority being possession offences, according to a report.

Trudeau’s Government has reassured the global community that it is mindful of its obligations to strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis to the international community, which includes protecting society from the consequences of illegal drug use and combating drug trafficking.

With legalisation, odour complaints about weed consumption are expected to increase.

Already, in British Columbia, between January 1, 2015, and July 31 this year, Metro Vancouver, which regulates air quality in the region, received 250 complaints related to cannabis, all of which mentioned odour.

According to a poll, the majority of Canadians want marijuana legalisation delayed for up to one year to give federal and provincial governments more time to figure out how to deal with the societal implications.

According to the Dart Insight poll, 55 per cent of Canadians want legalisation delayed, and 69 per cent of Canadians are concerned a large black market would thrive for lower-priced marijuana because legal cannabis will cost more.

Six out of 10 Canadians think the Cannabis Act is just a political move to get votes and are cynical about the political motivations behind marijuana legalisation motives.–BERNAMA