It’s legalization day in Canada! Change has arrived in Canada as people are now legally allowed to buy, use and grow cannabis — and they aren’t holding back.
Yahoo Canada News is covering the latest developments across the country. Here’s what has happened so far:
A man named Ian Power is believed to be the first person to legally purchase marijuana in Canada. He told CBC News he lined up for four hours in Newfoundland before a Tweed retail store opened at midnight in St. John’s because he wanted to “make history.”
Scenes around the country were much the same — lineups at brick-and-mortar stores and heavy web traffic has caused some issues in the first hours of legalization.
In Montreal, crowds of people lined up for hours to get inside government-run cannabis stores. The Montreal Gazette reported hundreds of people waiting for doors to open at pot shop locations. One man told the publication he got in line at 3:45 a.m. ET to be the first person to buy legal marijuana in Montreal.
Meanwhile, people were reporting problems accessing the Ontario Cannabis Store website after it went live at midnight. Shopify contacted Yahoo Canada to say the official storefront website was not down. Others said they were able to successfully able to access the site and purchase pot online. The government-run online retailer is currently the only legal avenue for pot purchasing in Canada’s most populous province.
— Ontario government (@ONgov) October 12, 2018
Early Wednesday morning, the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission (ALGC) had an issue of their own. They were reportedly forcing people to go into a queue before online purchases could be made due to heavy traffic, a spokeswoman for the ALGC told The Canadian Press.
You like us! Our website is experiencing some heavy traffic. We are working hard to get it up and running. Thank you for your patience.
— AGLC (@AGLC) October 17, 2018
Winnipeg hit another particular milestone today, although it was a bit less celebratory than the first cannabis sales. The city’s police service wrote its first ticket for consuming cannabis in a motor vehicle, sticking the individual with a fine over $600.
So … this happened early this morning: A Consume Cannabis in a Motor Vehicle ticket was issued. Just like alcohol, consuming cannabis is legal – and like alcohol, consuming it in your vehicle is **not**. #KnowYourRole pic.twitter.com/RR9AUBv4RN
— Winnipeg Police (@wpgpolice) October 17, 2018
FOLLOW LIVE: The world reacts to weed legalization in Canada
The hashtags #legalizationday, #WeedWednesday, #canadacannabis and #LegalizationinCanada were all trending Wednesday on Twitter in Canada.
Canadians couldn’t help but crack a few jokes about the cultural shift, with even Toronto Police Services chiming in with a tongue-in-cheek warning.
Asking police to call your friend because you are out of minutes is not a 911 call. Calling about your neighbour's pot plants isn't either. Cannabis is no longer illegal on October 17, 2018. Up to four cannabis plants will be allowed per household. Do not call police for this ^sm pic.twitter.com/1rUvR9yvcT
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) October 16, 2018
Among those tweeting about the news is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who led the charge for legal pot by making it a part of his party platform while running for office with the Liberals in 2015.
Three years after securing a majority government, the Liberals are hailing the move as a new chapter for Canada.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 17, 2018
“Profits out of the hands of criminals. Protection for our kids. Today #cannabis is legalized and regulated across Canada,” Trudeau said.
“We have turned the page on eight decades of failed prohibition with a sensible, responsible and equitable plan that will protect youth and displace the illegal market,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor wrote on Twitter.
“I don’t need to be a criminal anymore, and that’s a great feeling,” he said. “And my new dealer is the prime minister!” — Musician Ashley MacIsaac was one was of the first legal weed buyers in Canada
The health minister joined Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair to announce plans to allow Canadians who have criminal records to be pardoned for minor pot convictions. Goodale says under the proposed legislation, anyone can apply so long as they have completed their sentence.
“Now that the laws on cannabis have changed, individuals who previously acquired criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to shed the stigma and the burden of that record,” Goodale said.
Until legislation is enacted, simple possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana has been punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The New Democrats have been pushing for pot possession records to be expunged by introducing a bill in the House of Commons earlier this month, which was supported by Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, a former Conservative minister.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was among those highlighting the issues some people, particularly minorities, are facing with regards to employment, housing and travel due to past pot convictions.
“If we’re serious about ending the discriminative approach to cannabis then we must be willing to delete these records once and for all,” Singh said in a video posted on Twitter.
With #CannabisLegalization let's remember that pot has been effectively legal for some Canadians for years while others, predominately Indigenous & racialized ppl, are still being punished by criminal records affecting their daily lives. Let's delete these records once & for all: pic.twitter.com/wdXBiJCui7
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) October 16, 2018
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has accused the Liberals of rushing to legalize marijuana with a “self-imposed political deadline.”
“Trudeau has failed to address concerns about his cannabis legalization legislation,” Scheer tweeted.
But the Liberals insist pot legalization will make communities safer in Canada.
“We’ve created an opportunity to have far more effective conversations with our kids,” Blair said.
Bill Blair on legal cannabis & kids:
"The 'just say no' & eggs-in-a-frying-pan wasn't getting the msg across. We've created an opportunity to have far more effective conversations w/ our kids"; says direct engagement is better approach vs "threatening them w/ a criminal record." pic.twitter.com/iM6Uw1zdg0
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) October 17, 2018
Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu says she would like to see the government consider handling pardons on a “case-by-case basis.”
At the U.S. border, officials say the “case-by-case” approach is the one they’ll be using to deal with Canadians planning to travel to the U.S. Even though marijuana is legal in Canada, that does not mean users have a free pass to enter the U.S.
In short, U.S. officials say they want Canadians to be mindful of U.S. laws, which still considers cannabis illegal. This means Canadians should be honest when answering questions from U.S. officials, and never attempt to bring pot across international boundaries as the punishment could be severe.
With files from Elisabetta Bianchini and The Canadian Press