Party-like at­mos­phere in Ed­mon­ton, the busiest big city in bud busi­ness

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - DUSTIN COOK AND JU­RIS GRANEY dus­[email protected]­media.com [email protected]­media.com

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.

DAVID BLOOM

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.

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