Canada passed the bill to legalize cannabis nationwide last night. But consumers can't spark a celebratory joints just yet. In fact, they won't be able to have a legal puff of cannabis until October 17, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the new start date earlier today during Question Period in the House of Commons.
Waiting will October is a big letdown for cannabis consumers who were hoping that legalization would take effect much sooner. While finalizing the Cannabis Act, the federal government said that provinces would get 10-12 weeks to prepare for legalization by setting up cannabis retailers and preparing police to enforce the new regulations.
That would have put day one of legalization in late September. But Trudeau has pushed the start date back until the middle of October to accommodate Quebec and two other "big provinces" that said they needed more time to prepare for the new regime.
"We work in partnership with the provinces, and since we've passed these measures in Parliament we've been listening to the provinces who have been asking for more time to implement it," Trudeau said in French during Question Period. "That's why we're accepting the request of the provinces and that's why we'll be legalizing it as of Oct, 17, 2018."
Until that date, cannabis prohibition will remain in effect. So Canadians will face possible arrest if they buy, possess or consume non-medical marijuana.
"Cannabis for non-medical use is not legal yet," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould warned prior to Trudeau's announcement. "The law still remains the law," Wilson-Raybould said during a news conference held on Parliament Hill before Trudeau announced the effective date when legal recreational cannabis will be available. "Until then, I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force."
As disappointing as that news is, we have to remember that cannabis has been illegal in Canada for nearly a hundred years. So the silver lining is the sight of legal cannabis stores glimmering on the horizon.