Cal­gar­i­ans cel­e­brate le­gal cannabis

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BILL KAUF­MANN

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 al­ber­ta­ 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.


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