Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalise possession and use of recreational cannabis.
The nationwide market for cannabis opened on Wednesday at midnight amid lingering questions about the impact on health, the law and public safety.
Preparations included mailings to 15m households detailing the new cannabis laws and public awareness campaigns.
But there remain concerns, including about the readiness for police forces to tackle drug impaired driving.
Canadian provinces and municipalities have been preparing for months for the end of cannabis prohibition.
Provinces and territories are responsible for setting out many of the details for where cannabis can be bought and consumed within their jurisdictions.
This has created a patchwork of legislation across the country as jurisdictions choose more or less restrictive frameworks for selling and using cannabis.
Shops in the province of Newfoundland, the most easterly time zone in Canada, opened as midnight struck for the first legal sales of cannabis in the country.’ In addition to dispensaries the new law will make things much easier for an online headshop, which sell items such as glass bongs and vape pens.
What’s at stake?
Legal pot has been an inescapable topic for months in Canada, as governments and companies prepare in earnest for 17 October.
That day is finally here, and Canadians will learn just how much – or how little – the new framework will change the country. But this is not just a domestic affair.
With global trends shifting away from a strict prohibition of cannabis, the world will be watching this national experiment in drug liberalisation.
A measure of success – whether legalisation will be a win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of the 2019 federal election – will depend on whether it meets his stated goals: restricting access of the drug to youth – who are among the heaviest users in Canada – reducing the burden of cannabis laws on the justice system, and undercutting the illicit market for the drug.
Why is Canada legalising cannabis?
Legalisation 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 criminalising 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.