Cannabis Canada: Snapshots from across the country

Cannabis Canada: Snapshots from across the country

Published Oct. 17, 2018 12:00 p.m. ET

Five months after being approved by the Senate, recreational cannabis has officially become legal in Canada.

Canadians lined up at stores across the country Wednesday to be among the first to purchase marijuana legally. Canada is only the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. The first to do it was Uruguay.

It's an election promise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran on nearly four years ago. It's a plan he said would create jobs and put money back in government coffers, while also striking a blow against criminal organizations.

Where cannabis can be purchased and used depends on which province you live in. However, there are few constraints. Canadians can take cannabis across provincial borders and even ship it in the mail.

Legalization is an uncharted path for Canada, and the consequences of this profound shift remain unknown.

So how are Canadians handling the big day? Follow along with CTV News correspondents across the country.

From St. John's, N.L., NTV's Kelly-Anne Roberts reports:

Ian Power and Nikki Rose made history in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Filled with glee, the pair purchased the first few legal grams of cannabis in Canada.

The purchase marks the official end to cannabis prohibition and the beginning of a new era across the nation.

Power says he felt like a kid in Disneyland. He wants to immortalize that feeling by framing Canada’s first legal purchase.

Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth, says he had goosebumps all night, fuelled by excitement and the energy from those wanting to be a part of the historic event.

From left: Canopy Growth CEO Bruth Linton, Nikki Rose and Ian Power

From Calgary, CTV Calgary's Mark Villani reports:

It was an early start for Calgarians looking to buy their first batch of legal cannabis.

About 10 people lined up outside Four20 Premium Market in Calgary Wednesday morning and a dozen more at Nova Cannabis.

Calgary’s first two retail pot shops don’t open up until 10 a.m., but already some people are excited to legally purchase cannabis for the first time.

But not everyone was up at the crack of dawn. Some people, like Rick, camped out overnight. Rick has been waiting in line since 3 p.m. Tuesday just so he could get the first spot.

A total of 17 retail cannabis stores are opening up in Alberta. Each store is regulated by the Alberta Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Commission (AGLC). 

The province’s online store albertacannabis.org encountered some hiccups in the early hours of Wednesday, but is running smoothly again.

The AGLC is ensuring customers that there’s enough supply to meet the high demand. 

From Halifax, CTV Atlantic's Andrea Jerrett reports:

Recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada and Maritimers were among the first Canadians to line up at marijuana retail stores early Wednesday morning.

Daniel Moore was the first person in line at the NSLC Cannabis store in Halifax at 7 a.m. Once the doors opened, Moore purchased a pack of five pre-rolls for a little over $25, which he believes is a fair price.

“The pricing is very similar to what you would have found in dispensaries. I didn’t mind the pricing at all,” he said.

But it’s not the transaction process he’s use to having.

“Using debit to buy weed was different. That was pretty cool. You know, I’m used to paying with cash,” said Moore.

The store eventually became so full some customers had to wait outside. It was a similar scene at Nova Scotia’s only standalone pot shop.

Joseph Brown (pictured wearing the toque) was the first person in line around 6 a.m. While the 23-year-old describes himself as a “light cannabis user,” he says it’s a historic day and he thought it was important to be first in line.

“I just wanted to be here. I think it’s like a big deal. It’s like an historical moment, right?” said Brown. “It should never have been illegal to begin with.”

The line eventually stretched around the block as customers patiently awaited the store’s opening at 10 a.m. In New Brunswick, the Cannabis NB store opened two hours early.

Security was strict, with two checkpoints located inside Cannabis NB stores. All customers had to show photo ID at the door. The parking lot was full and there was a steady stream of people in and out of the Woodside Lane location. Customers were seen leaving with plain white paper bags. One buyer told CTV Atlantic he felt “different” waking up Wednesday morning while another commented that the products are reasonably priced and easy to purchase.

Also from Halifax, CTV Atlantic's Heidi Petracek reports:

The line has been steady since the government-operated cannabis store in downtown Halifax opened at 10 a.m. local time.

Many of the people here have used cannabis in the past, happy to be able to access it legally.

This is one of 12 Nova Scotia cannabis stores, and the sole cannabis-only retail location. The others are combined with alcohol retail.

By 11 a.m., the Clyde Street location of NSLC had sold $7,000 worth of cannabis.

From Stanstead, Que., Montreal bureau chief Genevieve Beauchemin reports:

Signs on the road in the border town of Stanstead, Que., offer up an important reminder to anyone who might be considering a trip to the United States in this new era of legalized cannabis.

Border officials doubled down on that message on Wednesday, warning that weed may now be legal in Canada, but it is still very much illegal in the U.S. Violating this simple rule could land you in jail.

Legalization has caused some concerns for Canadian travellers. They may be asked whether they have smoked marijuana, and though that may not be a routine question, anyone deemed an addict or a drug abuser could be deemed inadmissible.

However, U.S. border guards say nothing in their procedures is changing, adding that admission is a privilege, not a right.

A warning posted on the roads leading to the U.S. border (Genevieve Beauchemin) A warning posted on the roads leading to the U.S. border (Genevieve Beauchemin)

From Calgary, Alberta bureau chief Janet Dirks reports:

At one of two cannabis retail stories in Calgary: The product is kept at the back of the store in sealed containers. There is no sampling. Customers get their cannabis after paying for it. 

From Calgary, CTV Calgary's Alesia Fieldberg reports:

Now that recreational marijuana is legal there's a growing demand for industry professionals. This summer, Olds College started a program preparing students for a career in cannabis.

The Cannabis Production Program includes one week of hands-on experience with a partner company. Before practicing their cultivating, students first complete four online courses in horticulture, production and legislation.

Olds College worked with an industry committee to create the program, because there are thousands of jobs to fill across the country. Several students have gotten industry jobs while they are still finishing their schooling.

The program takes three months to complete and tuition costs about $4000. Registration for the first group of students filled up in one day. The fourth group of students recently started courses.  

The student seen up front is Railynn Dane. She’s excited to be on the forefront of this industry. She applied for jobs with LPs over the past two years and finally got hired by Sundial Growers about a week after getting into the Olds College program. 

This photo below is at Sundial in Olds, where Railynn is finishing her school training and is employed as a cannabis cultivator.

From Kamloops, B.C., CTV Vancouver's Andrew Weichel reports:

Wednesday morning saw a crowd of about 100 people gather outside B.C.'s only licensed pot shop, located roughly 350 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

People were buzzing as the government-run BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops opened its doors at 10 a.m., welcoming them into a meticulously designed space that reminded some of a spa or Apple Store location.

"I never thought in my lifetime that I'd see this," said Becky Prete, who was the first person in line after showing up four hours early.

The store has shiny white countertops, glowing white lights and touchscreen computers for browsing the 85-odd marijuana strains for sale.

The B.C. government has received applications for 173 more retail pot stores, but none were approved in time for legalization day. Officials promised many more will be opening in the coming months.

In the meantime, some of the illicit marijuana stores that have been operating in Vancouver for years remain open, and customers also have the option of using the government's BC Cannabis Stores website to order pot through the mail. 

From Parliament Hill, CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello reports:

If you didn’t know it was “Weed Wednesday” as it has been dubbed, the scene on Parliament Hill wouldn’t have been any indication.

Despite reporters’ questions focusing on marijuana legalization,  it seems a normal day in Centre Block. Outside, this reporter has yet to see a single person lighting a celebratory joint.

The first day of legalized recreational cannabis kicked off here in the nation’s capital with a simple message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals:

“Today the government has delivered on our promise.”

Those words were uttered by Organized Crime Minister Bill Blair during a Wednesday morning news conference. It was during that same announcement that the government said it will bring forward legislation to pardon people with past possession charges.

After years of work, despite this historic day, Trudeau himself has had not been front or centre, and has let his ministers do most of the talking.

On his way in to question period, he wouldn’t comment, when asked by CTV News, how he thought the legalization was going.

The opposition party leaders, though, had plenty to say on this brave new world the federal government’s ushered in.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Canada will soon see the consequences of what he considers a “rushed” rollout in the name of a an artificial political deadline.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took issue with the Liberals not going as far as his party has long called for, and issuing expungements of those with criminal pot records.

On Wednesday morning, Trudeau told reporters that he has no intention of using cannabis now that it’s legal, noting that he doesn’t drink much, either.  

A handful of politicians passing by were also asked  if they had any intention to consume cannabis, with no takers. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

From Victoria, B.C., CTV Vancouver Island's Robert Buffam reports:

Ironically, the day that recreational pot is legalized across Canada, none of the 29 storefronts in Victoria are authorized to sell cannabis. 

Some shops in the city temporarily shut down, hoping that doing so helps them get a provincial license. 

Many other dispensaries opened their doors for business, selling the same products they have for the past few years. 

But there was little fanfare this morning in the city known for its many pot shops. 

There were no lineups at any dispensaries.  There was — however —  some confusion.

A few customers we spoke with thought they’d be buying legal pot from a licensed store today.  They were surprised to learn the only brick and mortar shop in B.C. they could do that at is in Kamloops.

 

Most dispensaries in Victoria are quiet today, with few customers in the morning. 

Legalization lands with a thud in B.C.’s capital.

From Toronto, CTVNews.ca's Graham Slaughter reports:

Tim Armour leans against a glass case of bongs, pipes and grinders and recalls the first time he smoked weed. Reggae music fills the shop. 

“I was 13,” Armour says. 

It was a crisp October night in Moncton, N.B. in 1977. His parents were out for the evening, and his brother’s friend brought over a bag filled with what he called “ragweed.”

“The cheap, local, homegrown stuff,” Armour says. 

The three boys hid in a laneway between two houses and lit a joint. Armour followed his brother’s instructions: take a drag, hold it for as long as you can, breathe out. 

“I didn’t feel anything,” Armour recalled. “So we smoked another one.”

The boys eventually walked to a nearby pinball arcade. It wasn’t until Armour walked home that he felt something. 

“I had that first sense of a sort of buzz — that introspective, warm, kind of like crawling into the inner sanctum of your mind where everything gets a little fuzzy and you’re thinking a bit deeper,” he says. 

“After that, we got a lot higher.”

Now 54, Armour manages Smoke in the Water, a head shop in Toronto that opened in August and sells all sorts of cannabis paraphernalia: vaporizers, rolling papers, “one-hitters.” The shop doesn’t sell cannabis. 

Unlike other provinces, Ontario doesn’t have any standalone cannabis shops open. The province plans to allow private retailers to apply for licenses to sell cannabis sometime in 2019. 

Armour says the shop plans to apply for a license, and will hopefully sell a curated selection of dried cannabis. He compares the business model to a neighbourhood chocolate shop. 

“I was not a supporter of the Ford government at all, but I’m glad to see that they’re willing to allow to private sector, the small businesses, to come in,” he said. 

Speaking of former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan to sell cannabis at select government-run stores, Armour says: “I don’t think that would’ve been a good plan. I’m glad that didn't work…People really do want a little shop.”

Armour is optimistic about legalization, and hopes to see small businesses like his benefit. Still, he expects bumps along the way. 

“It’s not going to be built overnight,” he says. “This is the first step today, the fact that they’ve legalized it.”

As a lifelong smoker, Armour says he’s seen a major culture shift around the way Canadians see weed. He expects that, as cannabis goes mainstream, the way we talk about marijuana will change. He anticipates that, sometime soon, buying marijuana won’t be dissimilar from picking up a carton of eggs at the grocery store. 

“The Millennials have certainly brought in a much more accepting viewpoint,” he says.