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It’s official: Newfoundland will allow Canada’s first legal marijuana sales since 1923

View of Fort Amherst in the fog from Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland. GETTY IMAGES

Newfoundland and Labrador will allow the province’s cannabis stores to open at midnight local time on Oct. 17, the province’s liquor authority said Friday.

It was not immediately clear whether licenced retailers would take advantage of the decision, which comes less than a week before legalization. If they did, Canada’s first legal recreational marijuana sales since 1923 would happen more or less at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, or 7:30 Pacific time, on Oct. 16.

There are 23 cannabis stores in Newfoundland, and one in Labrador. Eight are in St. John’s. 

READ MORE: Marijuana legalization will start in Newfoundland and roll westward

“We’re not mandating that they open at midnight,” says liquor board spokesperson Greg Gill.

“That’s at the discretion of the retailer. I’m hearing rumblings of a few that will be open, but I really can’t say.”

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The province’s cannabis retailers include large national companies like Canopy Growth and Loblaw, and small operators like Tobin’s Convenience in Labrador City.

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As of Wednesday, cannabis stores in the province can legally be open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. On Oct. 17 itself, they can open at midnight, close at 2 a.m., and then open again at 9 a.m.

(There’s unlikely to be a public smoke-in, given the province’s strict public consumption law, which will take effect at the same moment.)

“We will have inspectors and Cannabis NL staff out and about across the province at midnight just to kind of keep an eye on activity, and that kind of thing,” Gill says.

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. 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.

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