At midnight, Newfoundland Standard Time on Oct. 17 — 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 in Ottawa — recreational marijuana will be legal in Newfoundland and Labrador.
What will it look like? That’s not yet clear.
There probably won’t be a public smoke-in, given the province’s strict public consumption law, which will take effect at the same moment:
Restriction on place of consumption
- (1) A person shall not consume cannabis
(a) in a public place
Will some of the province’s cannabis stores — 23 in Newfoundland and one in Labrador — open at midnight?
Under Canadian law, when something takes effect on a date, it happens at midnight in each time zone rather than in a single moment across the country, the federal justice department confirmed. So while it was debated for many years, the actual process of legalization will take five and a half hours, as it moves slowly from coast to coast.
“We don’t yet know whether we will be selling non-medical cannabis as of the stroke of midnight on the 17th,” says Newfoundland and Labrador liquor board spokesperson Greg Gill.
“We have broached that topic quite a bit in recent days.”
“Because of where we are, and the time zone that we’re in, the opportunity is there, for us to be the first online, and the first with retail.”
Another decision that hasn’t been made is when on the 17th the province’s online sales will start. It may well turn out that Canada’s first legal recreational cannabis purchase since 1923 will happen anonymously online, somewhere in Newfoundland or Labrador.
Half an hour later, as the bells in the Peace Tower boom eleven, tokers all over the Maritimes will have their moment.
P.E.I. and New Brunswick will have restrictions similar to Newfoundland and Labrador, but Nova Scotia chose a different course, largely allowing public consumption.
So Nova Scotia might be the place to smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em, in front of God and everybody, at midnight, so long as you avoid the long list of places in the province’s Smoke-Free Act, which include any library, art gallery, museum, church hall or laundromat. (Smoking pot in a laundromat does sound obnoxious, in fairness.)
So will some park in Halifax be the scene of a mass smoke-in? Not if the city’s bylaw officers have anything to say about it — by the time legalization rolls around, Halifax will have banned smoking anything on city property, including sidewalks.
And so it will go. Quebec and most of Ontario will follow an hour later, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario in another hour, and Alberta an hour after that.
And until the Peace Tower bell tolls three, people in most of British Columbia and the Yukon will have the dubious distinction of being the very last Canadian adults to possess cannabis illegally.