Party-like atmosphere in Edmonton, the busiest big city in bud business
EDMONTON The biggest pot parties in Edmonton Wednesday hit a high in the 10 seconds before 10 a.m. — when six shops threw open their doors to the first batch of cannabis customers.
A DJ playing hip hop led a new year’s-like countdown outside the north side Nova Cannabis at Namao Centre, where roughly 100 eager customers winding around the plaza joined in the shouting. Applauding pot retailers welcomed the first 10 customers about to become among the first to obtain legal cannabis in Alberta.
Shops literally rolled out red carpets for customers, who at some spots like Nova’s south-side location arrived before 6 a.m. to find themselves lined up around the corner still four hours away from opening.
Edmontonians had among the most choices in Canada on Day 1 of legal cannabis, between the Alberta government’s online sales to the six outlets opening their doors within city limits — the most brick-andmortar stores of Canada’s 10 largest cities. A total of 17 stores opened for business across Alberta, including locations in St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Devon.
“They can expect an experience,” said Nova Cannabis’ north side store manager Jennifer Clarke inside the shop moments before opening. “You know that what you’re getting is quality product and that it’s going to be held to a higher standard than what you’d get from buddy on the street.”
The 20 staff members inside Nova’s doors were swiftly making the final adjustments to the 15 sniffer jars and magnifying glasses available to give customers a sense of the strains offered. Each customer — with about 10 allowed in the store at any given time — were greeted by a service representative with an iPad to assist. The orders then moved digitally and were prepared in a closed-off area before arriving to the front counter through a vault.
Staff checked identification for anyone who looked under 40, both at the front of the store and also at the time of purchase at the counter. Right next to the check-in table was the “black market buster” sale, a specific cannabis strain for $6.95 per gram. Prices vary depending on strain after that, Clarke said, and go up to $14 per gram.
Nova Cannabis opened five stores across Alberta with two in Edmonton, the most of any retailer. The cannabis retailer is owned by Alcanna Inc., also the operator of Liquor Depot and Wine and Beyond.
“It’s an historic day for us, but the story is really not about us. It’s about the customers today,” Alcanna CFO David Gordey said. “We see this as the inevitable evolution of the industry and so we wanted to be a part of it.”
The stores had all hands on deck and Gordey said that the buzz and
excitement only continued to grow at both Nova locations throughout the afternoon. The company even ran out of a few products at some locations, but expect to be in good shape through the weekend before being restocked next week.
“We didn’t have a depth of selection in every product,” Gordey said. “It’s far exceeding my expectations. It’s a party out here,” he said after arriving at Nova’s second location just south of Whyte Avenue.
Shannon Reid, manager of neighbouring cupcake store Crave, which coincidentally supplied celebratory cupcakes for the south side Nova’s official opening, said she wasn’t expecting a huge uptick in business from those seeking sweet munchies.
Reid said the packed-to-therim parking lot Wednesday was not necessarily good for business as regular customers would find it more difficult to park and buy cupcakes.
As a non-cannabis user, Reid said legalization would not change her decision not to partake, but she could see the benefits of making it easier to access safer weed.
“For me, I hope it doesn’t affect my life in any way.”
Other business owners — from cafes to cannabis supply stores — said they were not expecting vast and immediate impacts on their day-to-day operations.
Those not wanting to wait in line poured online as the clock struck midnight Wednesday to purchase using the AGLC online store.
At its peak, the website had 11,000 users in the queue to make a purchase. About 200 customers were processed every five minutes, and by 12:50 a.m. the queue was empty, spokeswoman Chara Goodings said.
A small group of Edmontonians celebrate marijuana legalization in a park near Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard, early Wednesday morning. The park is one of Edmonton’s new smoking zones.