Recreational marijuana use in Canada will be legal in mid-October after legislation cleared its final hurdle Tuesday night, marking what officials here say is a wholesale shift in how the country approaches cannabis use.
When the legislation kicks in, Canada will be the biggest national government to legalize cannabis. Drug-policy experts have said they expect countries in Europe and elsewhere to look to the Canadian experience for guidance on cannabis legalization.
“We are very pleased to have reached this point in delivering on this progressive policy promise to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis,” said Judy Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s justice minister. She said the legislation marks a “wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis. It leaves behind a failed model of prohibition that’s made organized crime rich and left our young people vulnerable.”
Canada’s approach stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to use federal law to get tough on marijuana, and he brought an end to Obama-era protections for the pot industry. However, since January, his own prosecutors have yet to bring federal charges against pot businesses that are abiding by state law. Eight states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana.
Marijuana legalization was among the high-profile promises Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made during the 2015 election campaign, which resulted in his Liberal Party winning a majority of seats in the lower house of Canada’s parliament. Mr. Trudeau has said legalizing and regulating marijuana will help prevent abuse, noting it has been easier for youth to buy a marijuana cigarette than a bottle of beer.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001 for patients with valid prescriptions.
The legislation means across Canada, adults will be able to purchase nonmedicinal marijuana from authorized dealers, and possess as much as 1.1 ounces of the drug when in public. Households will also be able to grow as many as four cannabis plants for personal use, from seeds or seedlings from a licensed supplier.
The government has also proposed legislation aimed at further cracking down on drug-impaired driving, in an effort to alleviate concerns from legalization.
The Canadian government estimated last year it expects to initially collect roughly 400 million Canadian dollars ($301 million) a year in tax revenue from marijuana. Canada’s provinces will get three-quarters of the annual receipts.
It will be up to Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories to regulate the distribution system and determine the legal age at which someone can buy the drug. For instance, in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, the plan is to set up government-run stores to sell cannabis, and buyers must be 19 years of age.
Leading up to the legalization date, Canadian stock markets have been courting marijuana company listings from around the world—with Toronto emerging as a hotbed for cannabis firms to raise capital on the Toronto Stock Exchange and its smaller rival, the Canadian Securities Exchange.