International desk – Canada has legalized recreational use of cannabis as hundreds of people queued midnight Wednesday to buy it legally, media reports said.
The Canadian federal government expects the legalization will add nearly 400 million dollars as tax revenue in a year as Canadians heavily use the marijuana for years.
BBC reported that the first recreational cannabis was purchased on Wednesday night on the eastern island of Newfoundland amid queues of hundreds of people.
Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalize possession and use of recreational cannabis. Medical marijuana has been legal in the country since 2001, said a BBC report.
But concerns remain, including about the readiness for police forces to tackle drug impaired driving.
Information has been sent to 15m households about the new laws and there are public awareness campaigns.
Ian Power, from the town of St John’s began queuing at 20:00 local time so he could “make history”. Newfoundland is half an hour ahead of the next province to the west.
“It’s been my dream to be the first person to buy the first legal gram of cannabis in Canada, and here I finally am,” he told BBC.
Canadian provinces and municipalities have been preparing for months for the end of cannabis prohibition. They are responsible for setting out where cannabis can be bought and consumed.
This has created a patchwork of more or less restrictive legislation across the country.
Legalization fulfils a 2015 campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the leader of the governing Liberal Party.
The prime minister has argued that Canada’s nearly century-old laws criminalizing use of the drug have been ineffective, given that Canadians are still among the world’s heaviest users.
He said the new law is designed to keep drugs out of the hands of minors and profits out of the hands of criminals.
The federal government also predicts it will raise $400m a year in tax revenues on the sale of cannabis.
Cannabis possession first became a crime in Canada in 1923 but medical use has been legal since 2001.
Adults will be able to buy cannabis oil, seeds and plants and dried cannabis from licensed producers and retailers and to possess up to 30 grams (one ounce) of dried cannabis in public, or its equivalent.
Edibles, or cannabis-infused foods, will not be immediately available for purchase but will be within a year of the bill coming into force. The delay is meant to give the government time to set out regulations specific to those products.
It will be illegal to possess more than 30 grams in public, grow more than four plants per household and to buy from an unlicensed dealer.
Penalties for some infraction will be severe. Someone caught selling the drug to a minor could be jailed for up to 14 years.
Some critics say the penalties are too harsh and not proportional to similar laws like those around selling alcohol to minors, according to BBC.