‘I just want to be the first one’

ON­LINE AND IN LONG, SMOKY LINE­UPS, EN­THRALLED CANA­DI­ANS EM­BRACE FIRST DAY OF LE­GAL­IZED CANNABIS

Calgary Herald - - NP - Jake ed­mis­ton

Me­gan Kennedy had it chore­ographed: Cut a rib­bon, sell some weed. Close to mid­night, she told one of the reg­u­lars at her health food store in St. John’s ex­actly how much he’d need: $6.90 for a pre-rolled joint, taxes in. The cus­tomer counted the money and balled it up in his fist, hold­ing it there for 20 min­utes, care­ful not to lose any coins, wait­ing for 12:01 a.m. Wed­nes­day — the time, as pre­scribed by the New­found­land premier, for le­gal cannabis sales to start.

Kennedy, who co-owns Nat­u­ral Vibe, a health food store with a new cannabis wing, wanted to make the first le­gal sale in Canada — a feat she was ge­o­graph­i­cally po­si­tioned to do, be­ing in the time zone that would first en­ter Oct. 17.

A few blocks along Wa­ter Street in St. John’s, the ma­jor cannabis re­tailer Tweed had a more in­tri­cate plan. The re­tailer flew Bruce Lin­ton — CEO of Tweed’s par­ent com­pany Canopy Growth — to the St. John’s out­let. He stood be­hind the counter to de­clare in front of a pha­lanx of in­vited news cam­eras that his­tory had been made, hand­ing over Tweed-branded bags to the first cus­tomers in a col­li­sion of com­merce and counter-cul­ture broad­cast across the coun­try.

At Nat­u­ral Vibe, a short walk away, Kennedy knew about the scene at Tweed. There was a part of her that wanted to beat them. “I’m a re­ally com­pet­i­tive per­son in my heart,” she said. “I just wanted to be the one.”

At mid­night, she cut the red rib­bon that was pulled across the coun­ter­top in her store. They started a timer, count­ing down to 12:01. Kennedy turned to her first cus­tomer, Jack­son McLean.

“I ba­si­cally threw the money at her, she threw the weed at me, and we were done,” McLean said. “It felt just like New Year’s, but in­stead of a new year we’re go­ing into a new era.”

From 12:01 a.m. New­found­land time, th­ese firsts con­tin­ued west­ward, with hordes of peo­ple wait­ing out­side pot shops, or re­fresh­ing their browsers on­line, all grasp­ing at some­thing, prob­a­bly just to buy weed, maybe wit­ness his­tory, but also, for some, to be his­tory. For now, what’s clear is the day de­liv­ered char­ac­ters, plucked by news re­porters pac­ing the lines out­side pot shops.

There was the man named Ned Flan­ders, first into one of the stores in Cal­gary. Kyle Sweezie, wait­ing out­side a shop in Ed­mon­ton, at­tained so­cial me­dia no­to­ri­ety after be­ing pho­tographed with a half-eaten McMuf­fin. So, too, was the bearded gen­tle­man in Hal­i­fax who, in an in­ter­view with CBC News, showed off a shoul­der bag his mother made him.

The fed­eral Lib­eral govern­ment, re­spon­si­ble for Wed­nes­day’s le­gal­iza­tion, marked the day by an­nounc­ing plans to sim­plify the process of re­ceiv­ing par­dons for pot pos­ses­sion con­vic­tions. Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale promised forth­com­ing leg­is­la­tion that will waive the five-year wait­ing pe­riod and $631 fee that ap­pli­cants cur­rently face.

“Now that the laws on cannabis have changed,” Goodale said, “in­di­vid­u­als who pre­vi­ously ac­quired crim­i­nal records for sim­ple pos­ses­sion of cannabis should be al­lowed to shed the stigma and the bur­den of that record.”

In New Brunswick, Brian Har­ri­man was at a board­room ta­ble in a ware­house past mid­night, watch­ing num­bers pro­jected on a white­board in the room. Traf­fic was surg­ing on the prov­ince’s on­line cannabis store, hov­er­ing around 400 ac­tive users, then jump­ing past 700. Har­ri­man, CEO of New Brunswick Liquor Cor­po­ra­tion that is manag­ing the roll-out of the prov­ince’s cannabis stores, said one of his staff kept re­fresh­ing their or­der to­tals – 12 pur­chases in the first nine min­utes, 220 in the first hour. (Com­pare that to B.C., where the govern­ment site re­port­edly sold 1,000 cannabis prod­ucts in the first hour.)

“In our stores all day, it’s been like kids on Christ­mas,” he said. “They’ve been wait­ing for this anx­iously.”

In Mon­treal, Hugo Senecal thrust his fist in the air, cry­ing out from the front of a line out­side a govern­ment-run store on Ste.Cather­ine Street that started at 3:45 a.m. “I’m ba­si­cally a stoner,” he told the Gazette, “and I just want to be the first one to buy le­gal cannabis in Mon­treal.”

There were no lines in On­tario. There are no le­gal stores, not yet, as the new PC govern­ment sorts out li­cences for pri­vate re­tail­ers after scrap­ping its pre­de­ces­sor’s plan for gov­ern­men­trun stores.

In Regina, de­lays meant that the clos­est cannabis store open was roughly 15 kilo­me­tres from down­town. By morn­ing, 30 peo­ple from Regina had made the trip to wait in line out­side.

RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A man smokes a joint while wait­ing out­side a govern­ment cannabis store in Mon­treal Wed­nes­day, as the le­gal sale of mar­i­juana be­gins in Canada.

JEROME LESSARD / POST­MEDIA NEWS FILES

Mem­bers of 437 Trans­port Squadron, based at On­tario’s CFB Tren­ton, were in­structed not to ap­proach the VIPs on the flight, in­clud­ing for­mer hockey star Tiger Wil­liams.

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