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CANADA – The use and sale of recreational marijuana became legal Wednesday, making Canada the second nation behind Uruguay to legalize cannabis. The Cannabis Act, as it is called, was passed by the Canadian House of Common in Nov 2017 and then by its Senate in June 2018, and approved that month. Recreational cannabis became legal midnight October 17 and, according to news reports, there were shops and buyers ready and waiting.

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Heathen Robert Rudachyk, who lives in Saskatchewan and has been involved in local government for years, told The Wild Hunt: “It is long past time. Whether you choose to smoke it or not is and has always been a matter of personal choice. It speaks well that the federal government has seen fit to move to regulate this industry and once people realize their fears were for naught, we can relax the current restrictions.”

According to a New York Times report, Rudachyk’s province has 51 private stores opening this week. and Alberta has 17.  Quebec reportedly has 12 government-owned stores and British Columbia will also be opting to allow government run shops.

With legalization, which is being compared to the end of prohibition, are government regulations. Cannabis, for example, cannot be sold along with alcohol and tobacco products.  The THC levels must be lower than of that found on the black market.

Buyers must be 18 years or older, and can hold or share up to 30 grams in public. People are also allowed to grow up to 4 plants in their home for personal use, but not sale.

Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “Profits out of the hands of criminals. Protection for our kids. Today #cannabis is legalized and regulated across Canada.”  The Cannabis Act was one of his campaign promises, and in June when it was approvied, he tweeted “Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate.

There are now plans to develop legislation to pardon people who have been charged with simple possession or under 30 grams.

Not everyone is convinced that the legalization will be beneficial. Members of the medical communities are concerned about addiction and other negative health effects. Law enforcement officials have expressed concerns about a potential rise in intoxicated drivers. An October 14 article published in The Globe and Mail details the many ways that cannabis can cause, specifically focusing on preventing overdose and a trip to the hospital.

A survey done in August by researchers at Dalhousie University showed that, while 68% of Canadians do support the new law, 58.&% did express concerns about children and teens having easier access to cannabis once its legal.

Finally, other critics suggest that legalization is simply a route for the government to make more money. According to CNN, the sale of cannabis is expected to become a $4 billion dollar industry. And, Vice reports that the government is expected to take in over $675 million a year from the cannabis tax dollars.

We spoke with musician Witchdoctor Utu, who called the day “unique and historic,” but similarly expressed some reservations. Utu is the spokesperson for the popular Pagan band Dragon Ritual Drummers, and he lives in Ontario.

He told The Wild Hunt, “This brings with it new police powers of search and seizure that previously did not exist in this country, as well as drug testing for certain careers that were also nonexistent, and anyone on any registry from medical to online purchases, their information can be shared with the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security, who has officially stated it can either scrutinize or add said people to a watch list to outright refuse entry into the U.S.”

Travel across borders is one of the topics frequently being raised as Canada law went into effect. Officials are strongly warning people that, while cannabis is now legal in Canada, it is still illegal to carry it across international borders. This is an important point for the nation’s tourists, including the many people heading to upcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions hosted in Toronto.

Cannabis, in any quantity, cannot be carried into or out of Canada, even if the traveler is going directly to a U.S. state in which recreational cannabis is legal, such as Washington, Colorado, or Maine.

Despite all the restrictions, warnings and concerns, the nation appears to mostly be celebrating with some calling Wednesday October 17 #weedday. It is being heralded as a marker of a progressive social shift and it is also being labeled a national experiment. Witchdoctor Utu said: “Time will tell how this all works out for a country that already had some of the most lax marijuana laws on the planet.”

As he noted, nobody knows at this point the full socio-economic ramifications of legalization. With Canada being a major playing in the global economy, the world is watching. In addition to the coming changes within Canada, many people are also watching to see if Canada’s cannabis law puts new pressure on the U.S. toward the national legalization of recreational cannabis.