Canadian marijuana ban goes up in smoke
The Canadian government is ready to pardon those with a pot possession record of 30 grammes or less as Canada became the second and largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace.
A senior government official said off the record that those with a record would be allowed to apply for a pardon.
Yesterday, Canada became the second country after Uruguay to legalise so-called recreational marijuana. Tom Clarke's shop opened at midnight in Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost province.
"I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now," the 43-year old said.
Mr Clarke had been dealing marijuana illegally in Canada for three decades. He wrote in his high school yearbook that his dream was to open a café in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, where people have legally smoked weed in coffee shops since the 1970s.
At least 111 legal pot shops were planning to open across the nation of 37 million people on the first day, according to an Associated Press survey - a small slice of what ultimately will be a much larger marketplace.
No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn't expect pot shops to open until next spring.
Canadians everywhere will be able to order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by post.
Long-time pot fan Ryan Bose, (48), a taxi 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.
Canada legalised medical marijuana in 2001, and many in the industry spent the last days of prohibition completing displays, holding mock openings and training employees to use sales-tracking software.
US Customs and Border Protection have reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and those caught at the border with pot would be subject to arrest and prosecution.
Each Canadian province has taken its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, other allowing private retailers, some both.
Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, others at 19.
"We're not legalising cannabis because we think it's good for our health," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
"We're doing it because we know it's not good for our children.
"We know we need to do a better job to protect our children and to eliminate or massively reduce the profits that go to organised crime."