Hundreds of people lined up at pot shops across the Edmonton region Wednesday, on the first day of marijuana legalization in Canada.
Dozens of legal pot shops opened across the country Wednesday, including 19 in Alberta — 12 of which are in the Edmonton region.
Of the dozen stores, six are in Edmonton, two are in Fort Saskatchewan, and Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Devon and St. Albert each have one. Albertans can also can order marijuana products through the government-run Alberta Cannabis website.
The government-run sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m., eliciting a wave of demand that resulted in a virtual lineup at Alberta’s e-commerce portal.
LISTEN: 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show cannabis coverage
At 12:07 a.m. local time, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission tweeted: “You like us! Our website is experiencing some heavy traffic. We are working hard to get it up and running.”
The AGLC said within the first hour of pot going on sale at midnight, 1,040 orders were placed, and there were a total of 5,000 orders by 11:30 a.m. The website had nearly 61,000 visits as of 11:30 a.m., with more than 6,400 unique visits in the first hour alone, according to AGLC.
Watch below: Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Canada. But are Canadians going to be responsible about cannabis consumption? Vinesh Pratap takes a look.
By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, about 8,300 online pot purchases had been made. That translates to about $730,000 worth of products, the AGLC said.
There were 28,343 registered users on the government’s cannabis website by 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The surge of users “quite simply exceeded our expectations” and in order to avoid an outage customers were put into a queue, said a spokeswoman for the AGLC.
Fire & Flower is one of the companies opening several locations across the region, including the store in St. Albert, located at 19 Bellerose Drive.
Walking inside, shoppers were presented with glass display cases showing off paraphernalia: pipes, bongs, rolling papers, and vaporizers such as marijuana volcanoes and arizers.
WATCH: From smoking a joint to using a vaporizer, there are many ways Canadians can consume marijuana. Nathan Mison from Fire & Flower shows off convection methods such as the marijuana volcano.
Megan Scheie, director of training and development with the company, said they designed the store to be bright and welcoming.
“Light is actually an important part of our concept,” Scheie explained.
“The idea that the industry has been illegal for so long. By physically bringing light, it’s bringing what was once dark.”
The store also has a “strain wall,” a display of colourful tags describing all the different kinds of marijuana available.
The most common strains are sativa — described as providing a more invigorating and uplifting effect, and indica — believed to be physically sedating. And then there’s the THC or CBD potency.
Each tag contains information about the strain, so consumers can find exactly what they are looking for. Scheie said staff will be able to help first-time users navigate all the options.
WATCH: Sativa or Indica? THC or CBD? Canadians can now legally buy cannabis, but with dozens of different types, how do you choose? Julia Wong was live at Fire & Flower in St. Albert, where they broke it all down.
The store has a sample area where people can smell a few different strains and look at the buds under magnification.
While a lengthy line formed at the St. Albert store, few people were willing talk on camera because they feel there is still a stigma attached to marijuana. Some feared professional repercussions, and one couple said they even called in sick in order to take in the first day of legalization.
WATCH: Check out some of the lineups outside two Edmonton shops and one St. Albert store ahead of the 10 a.m. grand openings Wednesday.
Jeremy McPherson was in line a couple hours before doors opened. McPherson lives in west Edmonton but made his way to the St. Albert store because it was the closest one to his house.
“History is being made on a day like today,” he said, when asked why he wanted to line up.
“It’s fun to be a part of it, see what it’s like. It’s definitely a whole new era.”
Scott, who declined to give his last name due to fears over being able to cross the border, was the first paying customer at the St. Albert Fire & Flower.
“Just pretty stoked to come and check our legal weed,” he said.
“I’m happy it’s legal. I’m happy it’s here.”
Scott said he got in line around 8 a.m. and said he isn’t sure whether legal weed means he will smoke more.
At the only store south of the river in Edmonton, hundreds of people were lined up at Nova Cannabis in Old Strathcona. As of 11:30 a.m., the line to get into the store snaked around the building.
There were also lineups on Wednesday afternoon, outside Small Town Buds in Devon, Alta.
Watch below: Recreational cannabis use is now legal in Canada but as Tom Vernon explains, some of Alberta’s potential cannabis entrepreneurs are expressing frustration.
As Albertans light their celebratory joints, it’s important to know where you can and can’t toke up. Every municipality across the province has adopted its own set of consumption rules and as a result, they are different depending on which city or town you visit.
Watch below: It’s official – cannabis stores are up and running across Alberta. In Edmonton and surrounding areas, there were quite the lineups outside the stores ahead of the 10 a.m. grand openings. Julia Wong has the details.