London

London, Ont. opens first cannabis retail outlet

Hear from the people lining up to be among the first in Ontario to get their feet in the door of a cannabis retail outlet.

Two more bricks-and-mortar pot stores will open in the coming weeks, officials say

Jason Geldhoff, of Goderich, Ont., was the first person to legally purchase marijuana at Central Cannabis in London, Ont on Apr. 1, 2019. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Bricks-and-mortar pot stores were officially allowed to open in Ontario on Monday morning, and about 200 people lined up in London, Ont., to be among the first in the door at the region's only cannabis outlet. 

Three of the province's 25 pot stores will be located in London, but only one cleared the necessary regulatory hurdles to open to the public on April 1. 

Central Cannabis is located on Wonderland Road near Oxford Street West, in the former Oar House restaurant location. 

"It's a warm, welcoming environment, bright, airy, it's not what people think at all when they think of a typical head shop," said Jon Conquergood, the Alberta-based consultant hired by Central Cannabis to help get the store ready for opening day.

"You'll be greeted, ID'ed, of course, and a sales associate will be happy to take you through the store....You pay for your order, the order gets transmitted electronically to our vault, where the order is picked and fulfilled and passed through a window not unlike a bank teller." 

A close-up of marijuana for sale at Central Cannabis in London, Ont. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Although customers can't touch and smell their particular order before taking it home, they can speak to sales staff who help tailor the cannabis strain to the customer's particular needs. 

Customer Leo Cortes checks out pot in a smell pod at Central Cannabis. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

There are also smell pods set up throughout the store. Those allow people to look at some strains under a microscope and sniff the different varieties of pot. 

"Smell pods can hold a couple grams of marijuana in them, and they allow you to pull a little cap off the top, experience the smell in a concentrated manner, and there's a magnifying glass so you can see the cannabis in detail, people want to see the various trichomes and the colours, because that will help them understand how it's going to affect them and interact with their particular body chemistry." 

Trichomes can look like crystals on top of the buds of the marijuana plants. 

Some of the selection of cannabis for sale in London, Ontario. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Central Cannabis offers about 100 different strains of cannabis, with signs that signal whether a particular kind is best consumed with friends or alone, and whether it will give the user energy or help put them to sleep. 

Ethan McAllister purchased about 10 grams of pot at the store, and was among the first to make a purchase. 

"That was amazing," he said after emerging from the store, which has its doors and windows covered, as per Ontario regulations. "Kind of reminds me of an Apple store." 

McAllister said those new to cannabis should come to the store to talk to the sales staff. 

"The staff can help you make a decision that's right for you, so you're not stepping into something that's over your head. If you get something that's too high in THC your first time around, it's not going to be fun for you. Here they have staff that will help you enjoy your experience both in store and afterwards." 

Ethan McAllister shows off the marijuana he purchased on the first day that pot was available in retail outlets in Ontario. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Jason Geldhof was the first person in line Monday, driving from Goderich for the occasion. He said he hopes prices, which are higher than the black market, come down soon. 

"It's about on-par with the (online Ontario Cannabis Store). Hopefully, it'll come down, but that will take time." 

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