Ian Power had the honour of being the first person to buy marijuana legally in Canada. (AP: Paul Daly)
Canada is now the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace, as dozens of people lined for the opening of stores in Newfoundland.
Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Government has spent two years working towards expanding that to include so-called recreational marijuana.
The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.
Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, was among the first to make a legal sale in Canada when his store opened at midnight local time in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
His is among at least 111 legal pot shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people on Wednesday (local time), with many more to come.
Canadians can also order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.
Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.
No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn’t expect stores until next spring.
Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it was about time.
“Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no-one from me ever,” he said.
A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the Federal Government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.
Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.
An estimated 400 people were in line to purchase cannabis at the Tweed retail store in Newfoundland. (AP: Paul Daly)
Nine US states have legalised recreational use of pot, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana. California, the largest legal market in the US, earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offences.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said it was time for the US Government to follow Canada’s lead.
“Now that our neighbour to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” he said in a statement.
As Canada welcomes legalisation, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some US states when legalisation arrived.
Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company had 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province had supplied only enough product to open three of them on Wednesday.
“We’re aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months,” Mr Fencott said.
Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor planned to open their pot shop in Labrador City at 4:20pm — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis.
Ms Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they would be cutting a ribbon and there would be cake.
“We are just ecstatic,” she said.
She didn’t expect to make much money from the pot itself, noting Newfoundland’s 8 per cent cap on retail pot profits. She hoped to make money from pipes, bongs and marijuana paraphernalia.
“There’s no money in the product itself,” she said. “You got to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That’s not even paying someone’s salary.”