The Toronto Police Service has a message for Canadians: Please stop narcing on your neighbors about marijuana.
With the official start of marijuana legalization in Canada on Wednesday, and retail stores opening across the country (although not in Ontario until April), the Toronto police force started a public awareness campaign to inform people that they should no longer snitch on their neighbors about marijuana use.
Some of that public awareness campaign took the form of a few snarky tweets, invoking truly absurd 911 calls (from people asking for directions to asking what to do with frozen meat during a power outage) alongside calls about marijuana as examples of what not to do. The tweets urged people to no longer call the police about “an adult smoking a joint,” “your neighbour’s pot plants,” or “[s]melling weed coming from your neighbour’s home.”
“Cannabis is no longer illegal on October 17, 2018,” the tweets declared.
The tweets are funny, but they also speak to the huge change that Canada has brought on. Marijuana has been illegal in Canada for generations. This has shaped people’s views in all sorts of ways, up to enabling neighbors to snitch on each other over cannabis use. Officials across Canada now have to work to change not just the laws, but also the social norms and rules at work here.
On Wednesday, more than 100 legal marijuana stores opened for business in Canada, supplied by around 120 licensed growers, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds more stores are expected to open in the years to come.
This will allow both Canadians and travelers to the country to legally buy marijuana for recreational use for the first time.
There’s one major exception: Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and where Toronto is located, won’t allow sales until April. The newly elected conservative government there said it needs more time after it replaced previous plans for government-run stores (similar to state-run liquor stores in the US) with plans for private outlets. But residents will be able to buy pot online and get it through the mail in the meantime, and grow up to four cannabis plants per residence.
The beginning of sales follows the passage in June of Canada’s Cannabis Act, which legalized marijuana possession, home growing, and sales for adults (18 and older). The federal government is overseeing remaining criminal sanctions (for, say, selling to minors) and the licensing of producers, while provincial governments are supervising sales, distribution, and related regulations — as such, provinces will be able to impose tougher rules, such as raising the minimum age. In Ontario, for example, the age has been set to 19.
The move makes Canada the first wealthy nation and the second country in the world to legalize pot for recreational use. Only the South American country of Uruguay legalized marijuana before. (The Netherlands, despite its reputation, has not fully legalized pot.)
Marijuana is still illegal in the US at the federal level, even though nine states have legalized for recreational use at varying degrees.
So Canada’s move is drawing a lot of attention around the world. And how it all shakes out could help determine whether legalization in Canada is a sign of things to come across the globe.