Atlantic Canadians lined up early Wednesday, many in frigid temperatures, to be a part of Canadian cannabis history – including some who said they don’t even use the stuff.
“I’m looking forward to buying it and having it as a memory of tonight,” said Tara O’Reilly, a non-user who stood outside Canopy Growth Corp.’s Tweed store in downtown St. John’s, where weed went on sale at 12:01 a.m. local time.
The wind and cold didn’t deter a few hundred people from lining up around the block on Water Street, the city’s main commercial drag, to be among the first buyers in Canada.
Cars drove by honking their horns, a few shouting “Happy Cannabis” at the excited crowd.
In Fredericton, meanwhile, people arriving early got a surprise when Cannabis NB stores opened at 8 a.m., two hours before expected.
People leaving the store said they were impressed with the experience.
“It seemed like a novelty to walk into a store and it’s totally fine and it’s totally legal,” said Lauren Sturgeon, 25, of Fredericton. “This is totally surreal, but in a good way.”
In Halifax, Joseph Brown, 23, was the first in line outside Nova Scotia’s pristine new cannabis store in the city’s downtown core, waiting more than two hours to enter.
“It’s a monumental occasion. I mean, weed has been illegal for decades,” he said.
However, Brown said he doesn’t expect to be a frequent customer. “It kind of gives me anxiety. I just wanted to come the first day.”
Meanwhile, Colin Jarvis, 24, said he was pleased to get background information on the drug from the sales associates.
“It’s good for people who don’t know what they’re going to be smoking. They were really knowledgeable people in there,” he said.
He bought a brand with a high potency of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, referred to as ultra sour diesel, saying he was looking forward to trying it in the privacy of his own home.
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A bit earlier, in a purchase staged for the media, Alicia Wright, 38, was guided from an initial check-in screen where she described her main goals in smoking marijuana to a choice of milder “recreational” marijuana designed to relax her.
Clerk Alex Johnson suggested namaste, grown by Zenabis in Canada. Another sales associate explained it was made in small batches and is hand-trimmed.
After making her $45.15 purchase for 3.5 grams, she said it was a bit of a strange feeling to be purchasing marijuana in tidy little brown bags in the pristine and “clinical” environment of the shop. That included some papers and a grinder for the weed.
“Everyone is very happy and helpful,” said Wright, owner of a nearby massage therapy and yoga studio.
The infrequent purchaser said she noticed a huge variety, and “accessible” prices, but wondered if it might be cheaper elsewhere.
“I’ve noticed they (the prices) go quite high,” she said.
In St. John’s, 46-year-old Ian Power made sure he was first in line on a chilly October night to make a midnight purchase that will likely cement his place in Canadian history.
He knew exactly what he planned to do with his first legally purchased gram – and it wasn’t smoking it.
“I’m having a plaque made with the date and time and everything. This is never actually going to be smoked. I’m going to keep it forever,” said Power.
“Who else gets to be first to help ring in the end of prohibition?”
Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique position, with a time zone 30 minutes ahead of the rest of Atlantic Canada, made the night extra special for buyers like Power.
“A lot of things first happen on the mainland … but to have it happen in St. John’s? That’s epic.”
Cheers went up inside the stylish, roomy Tweed location as Power and Nikki Rose, another St. John’s resident, made their transactions at the stroke of midnight.
Bruce Linton, CEO of Tweed’s parent company, Canopy Growth Corp., flew out to make the first sale at the St. John’s location – and he landed on the island just in time, after a nasty storm delayed his flight.
Linton said he was excited to tender the first sale at the Tweed store across from a provincial courthouse, where countless cases over the years have dealt with cannabis-related charges.
Another Water Street store, The Natural Vibe, opened to slightly less fanfare than Tweed, but a line of customers still stretched down the street, with some saying waiting in line was “akin to Disney World.”
In Fredericton, one buyer – 36-year-old Sarah – wouldn’t give her last name or go on camera.
She said cannabis may be legal, but its long history of illegality means it still has some stigma.
“There is still going to be a stigma that we’re going to have to fight for a little while. I don’t think that ends today,” she said.
With files by Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s and Kevin Bissett in Fredericton