Update, Wednesday, June 20, 3:25 p.m. EST: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that legalization will go into effect on October 17th, 2018.
The bill will allow Canadian provinces to control and regulate how marijuana can be grown, distributed and sold, and it’s likely that sales will begin by the end of the summer. The Cannabis Act makes Canada the first Group of Seven nation, and the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize marijuana for adults nationally.
The Cannabis Act still needs Royal Assent – the final step the Canadian legislative process – to become law, but that is expected to happen later this week. Built into the bill is an eight-to-12 week buffer period that will allow provinces to prepare for the recreational sale of marijuana. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will set the official date on which the law will actually go into effect.
Trudeau made legalizing cannabis part of his campaign platform in 2015, and in 2017 he introduced legalization legislation. On Twitter, the Prime Minister marked the passage of the Cannabis Act, writing, “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize and regulate marijuana just passed the Senate.”
The Cannabis Act will make it legal for anyone over 18 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, while adults will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. While the bill establishes a national framework for how the cannabis market will operate, each province will be allowed to set their own system of licensing and regulation.
Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, though the law required patients to grow their own plants or designate another individual to grow it for them. A 2013 legal challenge broadened the law to create a system of federally licensed producers, but that ruling was itself challenged three years later on the grounds that it unreasonably limited access and increased costs. Though the 2016 ruling didn’t explicitly make dispensaries legal, it encouraged the idea that such a business could operate so long as it was for strictly medical reasons. In the years since, a gray market of sorts sprouted up in various Canadian cities, with many dispensary operators growing increasingly comfortable as legalization approached.