Skip to main content

Canada is officially the world’s second country to legalize recreational marijuana. The Globe documented how the country spent the day, from celebration and time in lines to protests and the desire for more regulations

Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto, Day 1 of legalization: A man rolls a joint during a "Wake and Bake" legalized cannabis event.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Part of cannabis laws and regulations

From St. John’s to Vancouver, from Southern Ontario to the Far North, Canada’s nearly century-old prohibition on recreational cannabis lifted on Wednesday – and in Ottawa, the Trudeau government also promised new legislation to let people convicted of simple possession apply for pardons more easily.

Not everyone who wanted to smoke up on the first day was able to: Relatively few bricks-and-mortar stores were open, and in Ontario, the most populous province, online retail is the only option until physical stores get the go-ahead next year. While demand was strong, supply was short on Day 1, and could be for the weeks to come.

The Globe and Mail’s correspondents spent Day 1 of legalization documenting from communities coast to coast.


After legalization, what now? A guide to The Globe's coverage

How we got here: Ian Brown on Canada’s long path to legalization

Is there enough legal cannabis to meet demand? A visual guide

Your complete list of The Globe’s cannabis explainers

Open this photo in gallery:

St. John's: Bruce Linton, left, Co-CEO of Canopy Growth, celebrates with Nikki Rose, centre, and Ian Power following the first legal transaction of recreational cannabis at the Tweed retail store.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Newfoundland and Labrador: The first gram

by Christina Pellegrini in St. John’s

Ian Power became one of the first people in Canada in nearly a century to own a gram of legal recreational cannabis. The 46-year-old from St. John’s arrived outside Canopy Growth Corp.’s Tweed store at 8:30 p.m local time Tuesday. By midnight, when the sale of non-medical cannabis officially became legal in Canada, he was the first of more than 130 customers lined up outside the store on Water Street downtown.

Mr. Power had waited not just hours but years for the chance, after more than three decades of black-market marijuana purchases. “I think it’s one of the biggest moments of my life,” he said. “There’s a tear in my eye. No more back alleys.”

The first purchase, rung in by Canopy chief executive officer Bruce Linton at five seconds after midnight, was paid for by Nikki Rose, 24, who bought one gram for Mr. Power and three grams for herself at a total cost of $49.98 after tax.

Tweed sold more than $10,000 in product in their first night, according to Mr. Linton.

As morning arrived in St. John’s, there was no lineup outside and less foot traffic in the Tweed store, with clientele older than those who braved the evening to witness the opening. Nothing had sold out yet, and shelves were stocked with more brands than the night before, when there was only Tweed-branded products. They now include LBS and DNA Genetics, and Organigram’s Edison. Canopy pre-rolled joints are still not available, but Mr. Linton says they will be available over the next few weeks.

  • Customers line up outside of Tweed's recreational cannabis retail store in St. John's, N.L. on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

    1 of 8

Maritimes: Many lineups, little choice

by Jessica Leeder in Halifax
Open this photo in gallery:

Alicia Wright, the first person to buy legal cannabis in Nova Scotia, makes her selection at an NSLC store in Halifax.Jessica Leeder/The Globe and Mail

In Nova Scotia, where there are 12 provincially-owned liquor stores that also sell cannabis, lineups over stretched between 25 minutes and an hour-and-a-half over the noon hour. The province’s liquor corporation, the NSLC, built one cannabis-only store downtown Halifax near the Dalhousie University campus. While many people in the lineup appeared to be of university age, there were also young and middle-aged professionals waiting to see what the store has to offer.

Massage therapist Alicia Wright made the first purchase of legal cannabis shortly after 9 a.m. in Nova Scotia at the downtown location. Ms. Wright, who said she has held medical cannabis prescription in the past, spent just over $45 for 3.5g of a strain called Namaste Sensi Star from the provincial liquor corporation’s “Unwind” class of products. The NSLC has divided their cannabis section into four categories: Unwind, Centre, Enhance and Relax.

The process felt both “clinical” and “empowering," Ms. Wright said. “It feels a lot more above board,” she said after using a custom tablet to help guide her choice. “In the past people have just consumed whatever they came across.”

Across town at the only Dartmouth NSLC store that offers cannabis, lineups were causing some frustration by mid-morning. “I’ll be quicker from a dealer than from the store today,” one man quipped as he left the lineup that stretched from the liquor outlet to a Goodlife Fitness studio.

Most of the NSLC’s cannabis outlets were set to open at 10 a.m. (AT), and lineups stretched a few dozen people at some stores. In Sydney, N.S., fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, a frequent cannabis user, was the first in line at the only cannabis store in his native Cape Breton. “I don’t need to be a criminal anymore, and that’s a great feeling,” the musician, who had been charged with possession in 2001 but given an absolute discharge months later, told The Canadian Press. “And my new dealer is the prime minister!”

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, the province’s first legal cannabis consumers made their purchases online just after midnight Wednesday. Early numbers from the provincial liquor authority show that just over 200 people logged purchases in the first 48 minutes that online shopping was available, and averaging about 700 live users each hour on its website.

Alex Cooke, a third-year student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said his experience in a Cannabis NB store was “very professional” amid tight security — but he noted only a few products were on sale.

“They have only five top producers right now, so there’s some product they don’t have yet, but it’s definitely what I’m looking for,” he said, noting he plans to return.

With a report from The Canadian Press

  • Alicia Wright makes the first purchase at the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation cannabis store in Halifax.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

    1 of 5

Ottawa: A pathway to pardons

by Daniel Leblanc in Ottawa
Open this photo in gallery:

Federal cabinet ministers Ralph Goodale, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Bill Blair attend a news conference on the Cannabis Act in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

At a news conference in Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government wants to introduce legislation before year’s end that will create a new amnesty process for Canadians convicted of simple possession under 30 grams of cannabis. The minister said applications for pardons would be free of charge, adding that applicants will not have to wait for a set period of time after they have finished serving their sentence. Before, applications for pardons cost $631 and applications to the Parole Board of Canada had to come five years after conviction.

However, Mr. Goodale said the government will not pro-actively expunge all conviction records for simple possession, as it did for men who were convicted of homosexuality-related crimes before 1969. “We have utilized the tool of expungement in cases where there is a profound historical injustice that needed to be corrected,” Mr. Goodale said.

Mr. Goodale said he is counting on the co-operation of the opposition – especially the NDP, which has called for an amnesty – for Parliament to adopt the legislation and to launch the new process as quickly as possible. The NDP said Wednesday it would continue to fight for expungement. “I am very disappointed the Minister of Public Safety ruled out expungement of cannabis convictions,” NDP justice critic Murray Rankin said. “He claims there is no ‘historical injustice.’ I completely disagree."

With a report from The Canadian Press

Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto, just after midnight: A depiction of a cannabis bud drops from the ceiling at a countdown party by the education group Leafly.Chris Young/The Associated Press

Toronto: Nothing in store, except enthusiasm

by Victoria Gibson in Toronto

In Canada’s largest city, cannabis users didn’t have a legal store to line up at when midnight hit. For now, the province is only offering sales online.

Cloud 6ix, a dispensary on Spadina, was still open Wednesday morning, lights turning on as usual around 10 a.m. (ET). An employee, who declined to speak with The Globe and Mail, sat at the front desk. The minimally furnished room featured a filing cabinet with a sign asking customers to show a membership card, a few “Hotbox” booklets and a rack of t-shirts.

The High Society dispensary on Carlton Street was shuttered, with plastic bags and paper covering the furniture inside and a sign to customers posted out front. “We could not be more thankful to those who supported us and believed in what we do,” it read. It directed customers to either a mail-order service or another dispensary on Queen Street West. Through the window, their old “cash only” sign was still visible.

Peace & Love, a dispensary on Queen Street West, was also shut down. Outside, a man named Jeffrey Grady, who identified himself as a former employee, sat waiting for a friend to pick him up. “I want to give out thanks and appreciation,” he said. The shelves inside were empty, crumpled paper on top, and a clothe-less mannequin stood near the window.

Also on Queen, a pop-up from the education group Leafly tried to give cannabis enthusiasts something tangible to see on Wednesday morning. The group had appealed to producers across the country to send over their packaging, so city dwellers could take a look. Packages for brands like Liiv and Grail were stacked on a countertop, each bearing the same stark yellow warning labels. Visitors trickled into the store through the morning, asking about THC content and whether their packages were child-safe. “We know there’s a lot of noise and clutter out in the space right now,” Leafly managing director Jo Vos said. “There’s a lot of confusion.”

People gathered at Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods Park and in Kensington Market to celebrate the first day of legalized cannabis.

The Globe and Mail

In an alleyway behind Friendly Stranger on Queen, people gathered around a bonfire, some smoking up, others chatting idly beside a white van turned photo-booth blazoned with the greeting “Welcome to the end of prohibition.” Groovy music wafted through the cool fall air.

Matt Crosby, a glass artist from Oshawa, Ont., sat behind a torch creating bongs by hand. “It seems like everyone is pretty stoked,” he said, pulling glass to create individual green glass leaves, later affixed together to create a product he expects will be sold for around $700. He used to create more art-based glass products, but says the demand for pipes and bongs has grown so much that it’s become more lucrative to focus there. “It’s cool to see this blend of people,” he said of the Toronto event.

Kristen Trask and Kyle Chymyck, 24 and 25, sat at a picnic table and took hits of “whatever was available.” Mr. Chymyck started going to dispensaries a year and a half ago, six months after moving to Toronto. Everything had been shut down in the area where the couple lived, Ms. Trask said. Faced with an online market, she was unhappy, saying she’d miss the face-to-face interaction of Toronto’s dispensaries. “I don’t like ordering online really. I’ll do it,” she said. “I feel like going into stores is a lot more personal.”

While brightly coloured cannabis mascots danced a shoeless reveller in a tinsel wig on the south side of in Trinity Bellwoods park, Glenn Dean sat removed from the celebration on a nearby park bench with his poodle, Nestle.

“They’re having fun. They’re young guys,” Mr. Dean said. “This is liberation. There’s been very few times that we can live and experience something as exhilarating as the liberation we have today ... for some of us that have hid from authorities for 45 years, the darkness is gone.”

Plum Holtz was also removed from the hub of festivities, smoking at a picnic table closer to the centre of the park.

“I’m not that kind of gal. I just like to sit in the sun and be alone and be chill,” she explained, saying it was nice not to feel on edge or guilty about disrupting the public. “I like weed. It helps with my anxiety and it just makes me feel generally more positive throughout the day.”

Around 2 p.m., Toronto Police spokesperson Caroline de Kloet said she hadn’t been told about any notable disturbances so far for the city’s officers from Wednesday’s revelry.

“Really, the law’s the law. There’s certain things that will still be done. It’s officers’ discretion depending on the situation,” she said.

  • People smoke cannabis on the street in Toronto early Wednesday morning.Chris Young/The Associated Press

    1 of 8
Open this photo in gallery:

Montreal: Hugo Sénecal smokes his first legal joint in front of a provincially run cannabis store on Sainte-Catherine Street. He and his friend Corey Stone were the first two in line on legalization day.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Montreal: La prohibition, c’est fini

by Ingrid Peritz in Montreal

The mood outside Montreal’s downtown cannabis store was exultant. Customers began to line up in the dark; by 1 p.m., the wait stretched to four hours and lines snaked down a long city block.

“This is a testament to the Canadian spirit. I feel a sense of pride that we’re ahead of the U.S. on this,” said Kay Nguyen, a university sociology student. “It shows that Canadians are open-minded people.”

The first customers at the cannabis shop in downtown Montreat arrived at 3:45 a.m., with only 20 customers in at a time. Inside, a security guard checked IDs, while aproned staffers stood ready to help.

By lunch-time, the downtown location had started to run out of stock, according to several customers who emerged from the store. Others said the online site, which also went active in the morning, was also showing shortages of several products.

Open this photo in gallery:

Corey Stone, shown smoking his first legal joint, says he hopes legalization will change Canadians' attitudes about the drug. "This will bring closeted users out into the open."Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Customers who made their first in-store purchases – their first time buying cannabis without fear of the law -- were giddy from the novelty. They described staff at the state-run stores as helpful and knowledgeable. The outlets feature a spare, almost clinical environment, displaying products along the wall, where they are accessible only to staff.

“It’s like a McDonald’s,” said Karim Berberi, a chef. “The guys know everything.”

“We were treated with respect and professionalism – that was the pinnacle,” said Matthew Geahel, a chemist, as he emerged with his purchase. “Better to give my money to the government than to a dealer, where you’re going to be rushed or fleeced.”

Mr. Geahel bought three boxes of dried cannabis flowers of 3.5 grams each, paying a total of $87 including tax. The store placed it inside a plain brown paper bag without a label, making it look like a packed lunch.

The outlet also drew several students from McGill University, which lies only two blocks away. Three students emerged with several containers of cannabis. One had bought seven boxes of pre-rolled joints, each containing two joints of 0.5 grams each, for a total of $77. The students said they would not smoke the cannabis on campus, where it is forbidden.

Quebec launched its online service and opened 12 outlets across the province on Wednesday, three of them in Montreal. Like the one on downtown Sainte-Catherine Street, which is sandwiched between a Moore’s men clothing shop and a Jean Coutu pharmacy, the stores are discreet, with only a small green sign saying SQDC on the storefront and the products for sale inside invisible from the street.

Quebec left it up to municipalities to decide where cannabis smoking will be allowed, leaving a patchwork of rules that change from one city to the next. The city of Montreal is following the province’s rules, which bans people from consuming cannabis where tobacco smoking is prohibited. Some of the city’s boroughs will have different rules for use in public places.

Quebec could become the most restrictive province in Canada for cannabis. The province already prohibits growing cannabis plants at home; the new Coalition Avenir Québec government wants to impose a province-wide ban on consuming cannabis in public places and hike the legal age of consumption from 18 to 21.

  • Hundreds line up at a government cannabis store in Montreal as the legal sale of cannabis begins in Canada.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

    1 of 7
Open this photo in gallery:

Matthew Dahl celebrates being the first person to buy at a cannabis store in Winnipeg, Man., on Wednesday, October 17, 2018. Marijuana is now legal in Canada.John Woods/The Canadian Press

Manitoba: Short supply, too much demand

by Michael Pereira in Winnipeg and Al Maki in Calgary

Matthew Dahl and Reed Tomlinson lined up for three hours to be the first and second customers of Delta9′s first retail location in Winnipeg. They were greeted by a loud cheer from a crowd of 200 plus as they exited the Manitoba-based company’s first recreational retail location. Tokyo Smoke and Tweed locations drew smaller, but no less excited lineups of 100 or so each. The estimated 30 to 45 minute wait was accompanied by strumming buskers and local cafe staff slinging coffee and snacks.

Inside, the three retailers offer slight variations on the experience. The shops are bright, well-designed and feature apparel and accessories alongside the main product. All three retailers had a scaled-back selection on offer for opening day, with options expected to expand in coming days and weeks. Each location had planned shipments throughout the first day to keep up with anticipated demand.

Orderly lines snaked through the stores as people waited see and smell the product. The uninitiated could get a quick education from either helpful staff or informative displays that explain each strain’s effect and potency.

Delta9 told The Canadian Press that 100 orders were processed in the first minute or so when the company’s online store went live at midnight. Products flew off the shelves, and supplies could run low if demand keeps up for several days.

Most customers weren’t put off by the price, which ranged from $7-16 per gram, but the absence of quantity discounts irked a few of the more frugal shoppers. Several said they’d likely alternate between using retail and their more traditional marijuana sources with selection and just-in-time convenience helping decide.

Meanwhile, at its location on 18 Street North in Brandon, MB, the store staff has started answering the phone, “Growers n’ Smokers, we’re not a dispensary.”

While GNS sells everything from bongs to pipes to vaporizers, it doesn’t sell marijuana. There’s a reason for that, owner Rick Macl says, between answering calls from locals interested in buying legalized weed.

“My biggest issue is cannabis is regulated by the government. So you name me one thing that anybody makes a substantial amount of money off of that’s regulated by the government,” Mr. Macl said. “Nobody makes money off booze. Nobody makes money off cigarettes. Nobody makes money off lottery tickets. Nobody makes money off gas. Why? Because they’re all government regulated so why would I want to set up a dispensary? It would cost you $500,000 – security, fiberglass reinforced walls so cars can’t drive in, blah, bah, blah, bah, blah.”

Mr. Macl was admittedly miffed when last month the Manitoba government approved a series of fines for cannabis users, including a $672 fine plus court costs for smoking marijuana in a provincial park or campsite and a $672 fine for anyone under the age of 19 caught with it. Growing pot at home, or selling it to a minor, comes with a $2,452 fine.

“You buy it from a pot dealer you get fined because you didn’t buy it from [government-endorsed sellers]. Is that entrapment? That’s monopolization,” Mr. Macl argued. “You’re over-pricing a product and forcing people to do it or you’re going to put them in prison or you’re going to fine them? I wish they wouldn’t even have done this. It‘s a complete disaster. Decriminalization is the key.”

On Wednesday, Growers n’ Smokers built a garage-sized “smoking tent” in their store parking lot. Mr. Macl said the tent is available for medical marijuana users if it is within eight metres of a public entrance.

“There are no dispensaries open in our area and the closest is about two and a half hours away and they’re already sold out,” he added.

Winnipeg police issued one of the country’s first cannabis tickets following legalization, when just after 1 a.m. a motorist found consuming cannabis in their vehicle was handed a $672 fine.

With a file from The Canadian Press and Justin Giovannetti

  • Hundreds of people line up outside as staff prepare for opening day at a cannabis store in Winnipeg.John Woods/The Canadian Press

    1 of 6
Open this photo in gallery:

Cafe employees offer coffee to people lining-up to purchase legal cannabis in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Calgary: ‘It should have happened years ago’

by Justin Giovannetti in Calgary

Hundreds of Calgarians lined up outside of the two cannabis stores open in Alberta’s largest city on Wednesday as the first morning of legal sales was marked by long waits and a party-like atmosphere. Alberta licensed 17 private stores to open on day one, the most of any province. At least 80 more stores are expected to open over the next month.

After a two hour wait to get into the Four20 cannabis market, a grinning Ryan Gill walked out with several bags filled with dried cannabis and pre-rolled joints. “This was a great experience. It should have happened years ago,” he said. “I’m a busy man, so this is what I need to calm down. There’s no stigma anymore.”

At the nearby Nova cannabis store, south of Calgary’s downtown, a store clerk helped Cole Hendry find a strain of cannabis to help with insomnia and anxiety. His doctor had given him directions on what cannabis to purchase. “This finally gives me access to what I need. People think we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re just smoking pot. But we have a lot of information on what we’re doing,” he said.

A rally to mark legislation in Calgary on Wednesday afternoon attracted about a dozen people. Walking through a downtown enjoying summer-like weather, the small group sought to draw attention to federal cannabis laws that allow for jail time for someone found possessing a large amount of marijuana.

Holding a sign that read “Don’t tax my medicine,” Michele Geistlinger said that the new federal and provincial taxes on cannabis, as well as restrictive rules on where it can be bought, meant that Wednesday was a partial victory. “Today is a small step forward for legislation but it’s a big step backwards for people with medicinal marijuana,” she said, citing the additional taxes.

Police forces and municipal governments across western Canada, where all of the country’s private retail locations approved to open on Wednesday are located, reported Wednesday was a regular day without any significant police enforcement actions or other hiccups.

In Edmonton, city officials appealed to residents to be good citizens and asked that because some are uncomfortable with the smell of cannabis, people consuming marijuana should ensure the smoke doesn’t go through the open windows or doors of neighbours.

  • The first customer enters Fire and Flower to purchase legal marijuana in Edmonton.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

    1 of 7
Open this photo in gallery:

Dillon McArdle, left, and a man who called himself "Landlord" celebrate the legalization of recreational cannabis in Vancouver, on Wednesday October 17, 2018.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Vancouver: Business as usual – for some

by Mike Hager, Ian Bailey, Andrea Woo and Sunny Dhillon in Vancouver and Justine Hunter in Victoria

Back in the day, 74-year-old Teddy Bear – yes, he cheerfully, but firmly said that was his real name – recalled pro-marijuana protests when activists were outnumbered by police 10 to one.

Standing in Robson Square, Mr. Bear laughed Wednesday as he recalled those days in the late 1960s. “It was a little group of us and a big crowd of cops."

On Wednesday, there were about three uniformed members of the Vancouver Police Department looking on from the sidelines of the square, but not intervening as pot was sold from a table.

Robson Square is the Vancouver nexus for protests on all issues. Looking around, Mr. Bear said, “It has turned into this.” Pedestrians, many presumably tourists and office workers on their lunch break, were looking on at the sale of pot, and a nearby protest against legalization.

The heavily tattooed Mr. Bear, who came out of the military, became a hippie, and “barely ever worked ever since,” said he uses marijuana medicinally.

Despite his acquaintance with pot, he said he was wary about the prospect of inappropriate marijuana use such as people driving high and not realizing how impaired they are. “This is truly going to be dangerous.”

At the table selling cannabis stood Dillon McArdle, whose activism was still in full force despite legalization.

Amidst a festive atmosphere, the 26-year-old was leading the sale of marijuana at the table, put up in the downtown Vancouver square, bounded by the Vancouver Art Gallery on one side and the provincial court on the other.

The self-described protester for the “proper legalization of cannabis” was arguing for free weed for medical users and for a role in the cannabis future for past growers of the product.

“My buddy, who has been growing for 45 years and knows more about the plant than anybody else I know, is not legally allowed to grow the plant for the government,” said Mr. McArdle. “He’s not allowed a license for it.”

Before speaking to The Globe and Mail, Mr. McArdle had a chat with a few police officers standing nearby. “They’re not going to bug us right now, they say,” he said.

Indeed, the officers moved away, and watched from a distance as Mr. McArdle sold his product, and activists wary about legalization held a rally on the south steps of the gallery.

“This is civil disobedience. The only way we can change a law is by breaking it,” Mr. McArdle said, adding the legalization process was forming a monopoly.

He said his prices are “compassionate”, ranging between $5 and $10 a gram. “Dispensaries would sell at $15,” he said.

Open this photo in gallery:

Eggs Canna Inc. dispensary is pictured on the first day of the legalization of cannabis in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 17 ,2018.BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

While protests and celebration blended at Robson Square, Jesse-Alan Negraeff began the historic day much the same as he does every other morning at the illegal Vancouver dispensary he manages: by restocking the four vending machines with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of dried flower and packets of high-powered cannabis concentrates not offered by any of Canadas government-licensed retailers.

The two days prior, he said, hundreds of customers called wanting to know if the four-year-old BC Pain Society would remain open in the heart of the city’s bohemian Commercial Drive neighbourhood.

Sure enough, at 10 a.m. local time, a dozen or so of the day’s 500 customers began streaming in and purchasing some of the cheapest cannabis on the market, he said, many hopping off the nearby SkyTrain station after riding for up to half an hour from suburbs where dispensaries are still verboten.

“I feel that we’ll still be open for the next few months,” he said as he filled one of the machines that holds up to $40,000 worth of product.

The machines made national headlines when they debuted four years ago, but their popularity also made some neighbours of the dispensary unhappy with crowds smoking out back – which could harm the shop’s chances of securing a coveted retail licence from the province.

Several blocks north, a location of the four-store Eggs Canna chain had a note pasted to its front door telling customers that it was shutting down so that ownership could pursue a stamp of approval from B.C.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may bring however in these changing times, it’s our promise to keep you informed as the Federal and Provincial government applies requirements in relation to sales of non-medical cannabis,” it read.

B.C.’s public safety minister, Mike Farnworth, said the province’s online marijuana shop was doing brisk business in its first 12 hours, logging more than 4,000 transactions. “B.C.’s prices are very competitive, compared to other provinces,” he told reporters in Victoria.

But he said participants of a cannabis rally expected to form on Wednesday afternoon on the lawns of the B.C. legislature will have to follow the rules around any consumption. Smokers – whether cannabis or tobacco – have to stay seven metres away from doors, windows or air intakes outside the provincial parliament.

“It is legal to smoke cannabis where smoking is allowed,” Mr. Farnworth said. However, he said any effort to give away marijuana as part of the event would be illegal. “You cannot give away free cannabis.”

Alice Reis, a harm reduction activist from Brazil, was part of a team handing out free marijuana samples – seeds, plants and pre-rolled - in front of the B.C. legislature. “I’m happy to be part of history,” she said. “I can’t wait for this to happen in my own country.”

Longtime marijuana activist Dana Larsen told the crowd of about 200 people that he isn’t happy about all of the details of Canada’s new law, but happily noted: “The eyes of the world are on Canada today.” Mr. Larsen eyed the tidy line of people waiting for their samples, and encouraged a little more disorder: “You don’t have to line up,” he said. “I’ll make sure you get a doobie.”

Back at Robson Square, Mr. Bear was out with Liladhara, his 11-year-old Yorkie- Brussels Griffon cross. The small dog was dressed with a scarf covering dotted with a big image of a marijuana leaf. Asked if she was dressed for the day, he said she was, but added, “She dresses with the scarf most of the time anyway.”

Later on, Mr. Bear was sitting on the sidewalk, legs crossed, in bliss and vaping some marijuana. “It’s marvelous. It has a strawberry haze,” he said.

Mr. McArdle agreed it was a momentuous occasion, mindful of the milestone of legalizing marijuana, noting Canada is now the largest country in the world to legalize marijuana.

“It’s a beautiful day that everybody has the right to smoke it. I do agree with that.”

At the Cannabis Culture lounge in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon, where the wifi password is “legalizeit,” about a dozen people sat on black couches, smoking. A Kanye West album played, an old Simpsons episode was on television and a light haze of smoke filled the room. It was about business as usual for the lounge, which opened in 2005.

Cody Van Gogh, who calls himself a professional creative joint roller, sat in one corner crafting a maple-leaf-shaped joint, snipping at it with tiny scissors. Other joints shaped into a rat and a dragon sat on a table in front of him.

He’s pleased that the drug is finally legal, but worries that new government restrictions will hamper creativity and innovation. Strict branding and packaging rules meant to make products less attractive to young people, for example, would directly affect his business.

“I need to be able to show what I roll,” Mr. Van Gogh said. “I need to be able to post it on Instagram, I need to be able to write about it. I think [legalization so far] is creating an unfair monopoly for the government.”

At the main campus of the University of British Columbia, dozens of students marked cannabis legalization by smoking up on a hill beside the student centre complex. Ricardo Zatz, 20, a business student who says marijuana helps him with sleeplessness and socializing, said pressure for using pot is gone because he will know the product is not tainted. “I know what I am smoking is actual marijuana and nothing has been laced into it,” he said in an interview, taking a break from cheerful smoking a joint. “That just makes me feel more comfortable and safer.”

  • Nagaysha Brown (L) and Emily Von Toll smoke marijuana on a Vancouver street on the first day of the legalization of cannabis.BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

    1 of 12

How does legalization work again?

The new legal market is a mix of private and public retailers, depending on which province you’re buying in. Some things are constant nationwide: You can’t buy if you’re under 18 (though the legal age in most provinces is 19), and adults can carry up to 30 grams and share with other adults. Here’s a guide to how the various provincial rules differ on where you can buy, where you can smoke and whether you can grow cannabis at home.

Watch: Here's what you need to know about how cannabis can be sold and used in your province.

Brick and mortar (crown corp.)

Brick and mortar (private)

Online (crown corp.)

Online (private)

Grow your own

Sold through liquor stores
















Brick and mortar (crown corp.)

Online (crown corp.)

Brick and mortar (private)

Online (private)

Grow your own

Sold through liquor stores

















Sold through liquor store

Crown corporation

Brick and mortar

Grow your own

Private sector
















Further reading


A consumer’s guide to cannabis basics

What is craft cannabis and how will it fit into the legal market?

An investor’s guide to cannabis

What Canada’s doctors are concerned about with marijuana legalization

Nine harm-reduction points to make with your teen about marijuana

In depth

Can marijuana save this Ontario town?

The oil barons of cannabis: Inside the illicit but lucrative world of ‘shatter’

What went wrong with Uruguay’s cannabis legalization and what Canada can learn


Editorial: With legal pot, Canada sets an example for other countries

André Picard: Boomers, remember the real – and perceived – harms of cannabis use

Gary Mason: No, we are not on the cusp of a drug-induced extinction

Ian Gold and Joel Gold: Cannabis use and psychosis: Young people need to know their risks

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles