17 Oct 2018

Drug-impaired driving concerns as Canada legalises cannabis

8:50 pm on 17 October 2018

Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalise possession and use of recreational cannabis.

Torontonians gather at a local concert venue to watch the "bud drop" at the stroke of midnight, in celebration of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Torontonians watch the "bud drop" at midnight in celebration of the legalisation of recreational cannabis. Photo: AFP

The nationwide market for cannabis opened on Wednesday at midnight amid lingering questions about the impact on health, the law and public safety.

Information has been sent to 15 million households about the new laws and public awareness campaigns.

But there remain concerns, including about the readiness for police forces to tackle drug-impaired driving.

Uruguay was the first country to legalise recreational marijuana, although Portugal and the Netherlands have decriminalised the drug.

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.

There remain unanswered questions on some key issues around how legal cannabis will work in Canada.

A number of analysts are predicting a shortage of recreational marijuana in the first year of legalisation as production and licensing continues to ramp up to meet demand.

And the marketplace itself is still in its infancy.

Ontario, Canada's most populous province, will only begin opening retail stores next spring, though residents will be able to order cannabis online.

British Columbia, one of the provinces with the highest rates of cannabis use, will only have one legal store open on Wednesday.

Until retail locations are more widely available, some unlicensed cannabis retailers, which have flourished in the years since the law was first proposed, may stay open.

It is unclear if police will crack down on them immediately, or if they will turn a blind eye.

- BBC

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