Canada will legalize the consumption and cultivation of cannabis from Oct. 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.
Trudeau said in Parliament that the government is committed to better protecting Canada's youth and hopes to take money away from organized crime.
The declaration comes after both houses of parliament voted to legalize the drug for recreational use, making Canada the first Group of Seven (G-7) country to do so and the second in the world following Uruguay.
"The legislation is transformative," said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, adding it "marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis, leaving behind a failed model of prohibition."
The federal government had said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. Trudeau spokeswoman Eleanore Catenaro said officials listened to the provinces that asked for more time to be able to prepare and implement the law.
"The law still remains the law," Wilson-Raybould said. "I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force."
The federal government and the provinces also still need to publish regulations that will govern the cannabis trade.
Legalizing weed was a 2015 campaign promise of Trudeau, who has admitted having smoked a joint with friends "five or six times."
Many questions remain unanswered, including how police will test motorists suspected of driving under the influence, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work.
The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the federal bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling.
"Provinces can set their own laws. If individuals are challenging that law, they can challenge it," Wilson-Raybould said.
Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said discussions for pardons of past convictions "can't take place" until legalization is in effect.
In the neighboring U.S., nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. California, home to one in eight Americans, launched the United States' biggest legal marijuana marketplace on Jan 1.
The news was also greeted with enthusiasm by marijuana advocates in the U.S. Don Hartleben, who manages Dank of America, a retail cannabis store just south of the border in Blaine, Washington, said Canada's legalization was not only politically exciting, but a potential business boon for him.
Many of his customers are Canadian tourists who are terrified of trying to bring pot across the border, he said. If more use marijuana when they're in Canada, more will use when they're on vacation in the states.
"People ask me all the time, 'Isn't legalization in Canada going to hurt your business?'" he said. "I tell them, 'No! The more it's legal, the more people are going to feel safe to buy my product.'"
Statistics Canada has estimated that the market will be worth Can$5.7 billion (U.S.$4.5 billion), based on last year's consumption data.
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