Canada has officially legalized the use of cannabis for recreational use making the country the first major Western nation to legalize the use of cannabis.
The change was praised by pot enthusiasts and investors in a budding industry that has seen pot stocks soar on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, but sharply questioned by some health professionals and opposition politicians.
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“We’re not legalizing cannabis because we think it’s good for our health. We’re doing it because we know it’s not good for our children,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on the eve of the reform.
“We know we need to do a better job to protect our children and to eliminate or massively reduce the profits that go to organized crime.”
The Cannabis Act, which fulfills a promise Trudeau made in the 2015 election campaign, makes Canada only the second nation after Uruguay to legalize the drug.
Its implementation will be scrutinized and dissected by Canadians ahead of the next election in 2019, as well as other nations that the prime minister has said may follow suit if the measure proves a success.
Trudeau himself admitted in 2013 to having smoked pot five or six times in his life, including at a dinner party with friends after being elected to parliament.
He has also said that his late brother Michel was facing marijuana possession charges for a “tiny amount” of pot before his death in an avalanche in 1998, and that this influenced his decision to propose legalizing cannabis.
But Trudeau’s office told AFP he “does not plan on purchasing or consuming cannabis once it is legalized.”
In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis from legal dispensaries in 2018 — about 15 percent of the population. Around 4.9 million already smoke.
Stores in St. John’s in the Atlantic island province of Newfoundland were due to open their doors to pot enthusiasts as of 12:01 am local time (0231 GMT) on Wednesday.