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  1. ITV Report

Canada becomes largest country in the world to legalise recreational marijuana

Sales of cannabis have begun in Canada which has now become the the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace.

Purchases of marijuana began early in Newfoundland, eastern Canada, on Wednesday.

More than 100 stores opened across the country in time for the start of sales.

People were pictured queuing outside of shops to get their hands on the first recreational sales of the drug.

Authorities have also announced that the state will pardon all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grammes, the now-legal threshold.

Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include so-called recreational marijuana.

The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.

Uruguay was first was the first country to legalise marijuana.

Tweed in St John’s Newfoundland Credit: Paul Daly/The Canadian Press via AP

Tom Clarke, an illegal cannabis dealer for three decades, was among the first to make a legal sale in Canada when his store opened at midnight local time in Portugal Cove.

His is among at least 111 legal marijuana shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people.

Canadians can also order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and does not expect stores until next spring.

Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it is about time.

“Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no-one from me ever,” he said.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.

Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment - a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.

Nine US states have legalised recreational use of cannabis, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana.

California, the largest legal market in the US, earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offences that no longer are illegal.

Uruguay was first was the first country to legalise marijuana. Credit: Associated Press

US Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and that those who are caught at the border with marijuana are subject to arrest and prosecution.

As Canada welcomes legalisation, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some US states when legalisation arrived.

Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them on Wednesday.

“We’re aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months,” Mr Fencott said.

Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4.20pm on Wednesday — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis.

Ms Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.

“We are just ecstatic,” she said.