THOUSANDS MOB STORES, SITE
Calgarians celebrate legal cannabis
A skunky whiff of burning cannabis drifted through the air at a southwest strip mall, marking the dawn of retail pot in Calgary.
Ten hours before, 95 years of cannabis criminalization came to an end in the country and about 400 people queued outside Four20 Premium Market at Southland Crossing were in a festive mood, one of them wrapped in a stylized marijuana Canadian flag.
“Welcome to the end of prohibition,” said a jubilant Four20 president Jeff Mooij as he swung open the doors to his shop, one of only two to open on recreational marijuana’s first legal day.
Earlier in the morning, throngs of buyers numbering more than 11,000, many of whom had waited decades for this day, crashed the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis marijuana retail website almost as soon as it activated at midnight.
“The surge of buyers quite simply exceeded our expectations,” said AGLC spokeswoman Heather Holmen.
The commission managed to restore the website 20 minutes later but by noon several cannabis strains were listed as “out of stock.”
In fewer than six hours, the site had clocked over 61,000 visits.
As for possible weed shortages, something several industry players have said is inevitable for the next few months, Holmen said “you’ll see variances in inventory.”
Back at Four20 Premium Market, those waiting in line to score a buzz or medicine were still reluctant to give their full names, reflecting a stigma that still exists despite legalization.
But many, like Rick, who headed the lineup at Four20 for 19 hours, said that reticence wouldn’t keep them away on a memorable day.
“It’s a pretty important, special day for the country,” said Rick, adding he doesn’t even consume cannabis and was purchasing for a friend.
He later emerged from the store with two double packs of joints and a small quantity of bud.
“It was a cold night, but it was worth it,” said Rick.
Max had lined up for four hours, as much for mementoes as the high.
“I’m here as a part of history and to get that receipt — maybe frame it, put in on my fridge and try not to lose it,” said the 24-year-old.
And even though the store prices are considerably higher than the black market counterpart, Max said he’d purchase legally out of principle.
“I’ve supported the idea of legalization, so I’ll support it with my dollars, too,” he said.
At the top of the parking lot, a lone protester condemned the buyers as “losers” and hurled biblical condemnation.
Across the province, 17 retail outlets welcomed customers, though the AGLC said they could be joined by another 100 in the coming weeks.
Another of those 17 outlets was Nova Cannabis Willow Park, which was also thronged by an excited, curious clientele.
Mike Slade was one of the first into the store and said he was impressed with the pricing, adding he bought his cannabis for cheaper than he could’ve on the black market.
“I paid less money than typically I would’ve done on the street,” Slade said, adding even with his medical cannabis card for the last three years he still “paid half the price” in a retail setting.
“We’re going to be laughing, literally, when we all blaze later today. I think it’s great — now we have the ability to not be concerned with opinion, or the trouble with cops — that’s how simplistic it is.”
At Four20, prices for a gram of dried flower, or bud ranged from nearly $13 to just over $18 with pre-rolled joints tagged at around $7 each.
It makes for a pricey shopping trip compared to an illicit purchase, said Liam, 19, who nonetheless ended up spending $333 for 24.5 grams, 5.5 grams below the maximum allowable quantity of 30.
“The prices are definitely steep but understandable given this is the first day of legalization,” he said.
The 19-year-old said he’s hoping the price eventually drops by half.
Prices on the AGLC’s albertacannabis.org website were often several dollars less than those of private retailers, who say they contend with a shipping fee and higher overhead costs.
Meanwhile, the AGLC has issued licences to two more Calgary stores that could open quickly: one to Calgary Co-op at its 8720 Macleod Trail plaza, the other Beltline Cannabis at 806 12th Avenue S.W.
AGLC inspectors fanned out across the province Wednesday but reported no significant problems with the cannabis store openings.
Happy customers place their orders at the Premium Four20 Market in Calgary on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people line up to purchase legal cannabis.
Heather Pratt smokes a joint in front of City Hall during a rally.
Premium Four20 Market president Jeff Mooij shows customer, Max, some of the products at the store.
First customer Rick, who stood in line for 19 hours, gets the royal treatment at the Premium Four20 Market.