Long lines on first day of legal pot sales in Canada

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Separately, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Wednesday said the government would waive the fee and waiting period when people who have been convicted of possession of up to 30 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana apply for pardons, after they've served their sentences.

Marijuana possession first became a crime in Canada in 1923 but medical use has been legal since 2001.

A coalition of groups concerned about the health risks associated with marijuana is calling legalization a "dark day for Canada".

Weed enthusiasts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada's easternmost province, kicked off the first permissible sales at midnight.

"I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now", said Tom Clarke, 43, whose shop in Newfoundland began business as soon as legally possible.

"There will be a lot of celebrations on the day, and it will nearly all be with illegal cannabis" in some of Canada's biggest cities, said Brad Poulos, an instructor and cannabis business expert at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The AP reported that more than 100 legal pot shops are expected to open on Wednesday. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn't expect stores until next spring.

Besides buying pot in stores, Canadians can order the drug online and have it mailed to their homes.

Graham said it means he won't have to buy pot from his friends anymore, while Risk said she sees legalization as a progressive step.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing - you're never ever going to be one of the first people able to buy legal recreational cannabis in Canada ever again", said Stone, a 32-year restaurant and bar manager.

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Ian Power, a cannabis advocate, tells VOCM News this moment is significant because it is a step towards ending the stigma towards people who use cannabis.

The big difference between cannabis legalization in the USA and Canada, Hawkins added, has been "the blessing provincial governments (in Canada) have received from their federal government".

Marijuana will be available to purchase either online or in retail stores depending on the province. "Recreational cannabis users in Canada ... will just continue with their (existing) sources of supply until the legal system catches up".

Nunavut's legislation allows for private retailers to sell marijuana in Nunavut communities, but the commission has said it won't consider that option until 2019, and even then, there will be a process to allow communities to decide if residents welcome that option or not.

The new industry has attracted billions in funding, as well as interest from major alcohol and soft drink makers such as Constellation Brands and Coca-Cola, respectively, in developing cannabis infused drinks.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of OR said it's time for the United States government to follow Canada's lead.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Medical Association Journal described legalisation as "a national, uncontrolled experiment" that pits "the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues ... against the health of Canadians".

US cannabis legalization proponents, as well as some congressional lawmakers, see Canada as a lesson in how to successfully legalize pot on a federal scale.

Former President Vicente Fox, who calls himself a soldier in the global campaign to legalize marijuana, earlier this year joined the board of directors of venerable cannabis publication High Times to advance his agenda.

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