Edmonton store rolls out red carpet on first day of legal cannabis sales

Dozens of people lined up Wednesday morning outside Nova Cannabis, just south of Whyte Avenue, on the first day of legal cannabis sales.

'This is a really iconic time in Canadian history'

Customers lined up early to be among Edmonton's first legal cannabis buyers. 1:08

As one of Edmonton's first legal cannabis stores prepared to open its doors Wednesday morning, dozens of people formed a line that stretched around the block.

A red carpet was rolled out at Nova Cannabis, a block south of Whyte Avenue. A bouncer stood by the door as a DJ blasted top 40 tunes.

Geoff Gooding stood in line, smoking pot from a small wooden pipe. It was his birthday — and he was happy to be able to celebrate with a smoke.

"I'm not within 10 metres of a doorway or a bus stop. I feel great to be able to do that," he said.

A lineup forms outside a Nova Cannabis store in Edmonton an hour before it opens its doors for the first time Oct. 17. (Andrea Ross/CBC)

He's been a regular user for years and said he's glad to now be able to legally buy and use the drug. He said it may take some time for cannabis to be fully accepted by the general population, but it will happen.

"Always having to obtain it through illegal means was a source of stress," Gooding said. 

Six other pot shops in Edmonton also opened to lineups Wednesday. Similar scenes were played out in across Canada as marijuana enthusiasts marked the historic first day of legal recreational weed.

Some people lined up at Nova Cannabis dressed up for the occasion — like Terri English, who showed up in a giant inflatable T. rex costume.

"It's the first day of legalization. So if you want to get in on history, you should probably be here first day," she said.

Nova Cannabis rolled out the red carpet Wednesday as it opened its doors for the first time. (CBC)

Marinke Lerous found herself near the front of the line, having shown up around 8:30 a.m. She said she is a medical user and wanted to see whether the store's prices would be similar to what she's used to paying. She was also curious about trying something new. 

"This is a really iconic time in Canadian history," Lerous said. "I'm really excited to be a part of history."​

Online sales site inundated

Alberta's only legal, non-medical online cannabis store, operated through the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Commission, opened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The site was inundated and forced to shuffle people into a queue, or "waiting room," said Kaleigh Miller, spokesperson with AGLC.

At one point there were 11,000 people in the queue, but the system worked fairly well for the volume it was dealing with, Miller said Wednesday.

"After five minutes or so, it was processing 200 orders every five minutes," Miller said.

As of 8:30 a.m. there had been more than 40,000 visits to the site and several items, from dried flowers to oils, had sold out in a matter of hours.

The AGLC will continue to work with licensed producers to get stock replenished, she said.

Nova Cannabis spokeswoman Marcie Kiziak said the store has about 16,000 individuals items in stock, but expected to sell out of some products on Wednesday.

'I've been waiting for this day for a very long time'

Staff cheered and clapped when Nova Cannabis opened its doors at 10 a.m.

Just a few customers were allowed in at a time, giving staff a chance to check IDs and help each customer find the strain and price point they were looking for.

Customers were able to browse information cards on walls, and sniff samples in containers in the middle of the store.

After waiting in line for an hour, Brandon Wright spent $205 on a hybrid strain of dried cannabis and pre-rolled joints. He said it was money well spent, considering the variety of product available and the help he received from staff.

"It was a huge wait to get in here, but for the first time seeing it as is it, all the information, all the staff readily available here to help you out and give you information, it's huge," he said. 

"I've been waiting for this day for a very long time."

Gooding ended up with a brown bag filled with pre-rolled joints. The process of buying took longer than he expected and cost a bit more, he said. But he says he's done buying on the black market.

"I paid a bit more than I would have on the black market for the same quantity," he said.

"But I figure having the information and also the service of having them rolled for me is quite a bit of value, so I don't mind paying more."

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