British Columbia

Plenty of interest but no chaos as B.C.'s legal cannabis sales get underway

The first B.C. Cannabis Store opened in Kamloops this morning.

The first B.C. Cannabis Store opened in Kamloops this morning

Aaron, who declined to give his last name, shows off his cannabis purchase outside British Columbia's first legal B.C. cannabis store in Kamloops, B.C. on Wednesday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Freshly legalized marijuana is said to be selling well in B.C. — both online and in the province's only government-run store — but officials say traffic is well under control. 

Hours after cannabis was legalized across Canada, a cheer went up as the first dozen customers spilled into the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops when it opened at 10 a.m. PT.

Kelowna's Becky Prete was first in line. She drove from Kelowna, stayed overnight in a hotel and rolled up to the store with coffee and a camping chair at 6 a.m. PT.

Becky Prete of Kelowna, B.C., was the first person in line at the province's first pot shop in Kamloops. Prete arrived with coffee and a camping chair more than two hours before opening. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Craig McCarthy drove for two hours from Chilliwack and arrived at about 2 a.m. PT, but his decision to nap in his car landed him second in line.

He has been smoking cannabis for 20 years and normally buys shatter — a potent cannabis concentrate — from an illegal dispensary.

The government-run store doesn't carry the concentrated product — which is still illegal — but he says he'll buy marijuana online now instead of purchasing it illegally.

"I'm just happy it's finally here,'' McCarthy said. "It'll absolutely change my life."

Online sales running as 'hoped'

The B.C. Cannabis Store's online shop went live at midnight and racked up around 1,000 sales in its first hour, according to B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

"It did not crash,'' he told a conference call hours after the site opened.

"So far, it is performing as we hoped it would.''

The approximately 80 products for sale at the storefront and online include:

  • Pre-rolled joints
  • Bottled oils
  • Oil products
  • Dry products
  • Capsules
  • Pipes
  • Vaporizers
  • Rolling papers
  • Bongs
The inside of the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops hours before opening on Oct. 17, 2018. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Prices range from $4.20 for a pre-rolled, half-gram joint to $139.99 for a three-pack of oils.

There are no shipping options — just a flat fee of $10 — and Canada Post is supposed to ship orders within 48 hours.

When asked about perceived high prices for legal cannabis compared to black market prices, Farnworth said he expects market forces to play out over time in favour of legal weed, as more growers and distributors are licensed.  

"People are prepared to pay a premium for product they can trust," he said. 

The inside of British Columbia's first legal cannabis store is pictured in Kamloops, B.C. Canada legalized cannabis nationwide on Wednesday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
A security guard walks outside British Columbia's first legal B.C. cannabis store in Kamloops, B.C. Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Canada will legalize cannabis nation wide on Wednesday, Oct. 17 2018 allowing stores across the country to open and legally sell cannabis and cannabis products. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Crackdown not expected

Farnworth says the province is considering 173 cannabis store applications province-wide, with 35 in the advanced planning stage.

The Kamloops shop received final and unanimous approval from city councillors on Tuesday — less than 12 hours before recreational cannabis was legalized in the country.

The store, which is attached to a shopping mall, is branded similarly to a B.C. Liquor Store. Doors and windows are frosted, making it impossible to see inside from the parking lot, which is in line with provincial regulations.

Shoppers — who have to be at least 19 years old — will have their IDs checked at security. Customers can't touch or samples products, but "cannabis consultants" will be on hand to help buyers make their selections.

Enforcement of illegal shops is not expected now that recreational marijuana is legal, though there is an expectation that many illegal dispensaries will comply with the law by obtaining a retail licence or choosing to shut down. 

With files from Briar Stewart, Brady Strachan and the Canadian Press

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated Canada Post should be able to deliver orders from the BC Cannabis Store website within 48 hours. In fact, it is only expected to ship orders within that time.
    Oct 17, 2018 12:52 PM PT

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