A first time for everything: New Brunswickers line up for legal cannabis
Residents across the province stood outside Cannabis NB stores to purchase legal recreational marijuana
John McCarthy wanted to be part of Canadian history on Wednesday.
He stood in line with dozens of other people outside a Cannabis NB store in Fredericton for his first ever legal sale of recreational weed.
"It's a bit of a historic day in Canada," he said. "This is sort of the end of prohibition for marijuana."
Cannabis is now legal — albeit heavily restricted — across Canada, making this just the second country in the world, behind Uruguay, to legalize recreational cannabis.
"It's significant for all Canadians," McCarthy said. "This is groundbreaking."
The Fredericton resident hasn't smoked weed since high school but plans to try it later today.
"I'm going to enjoy it when I get home" he said.
No more 'sketchy parking lots'
Alan Clark has been waiting about 20 years for the legalization of marijuana.
"It's kind of surreal to be honest," he said outside a Cannabis NB store in Fredericton.
"Interesting to be able to finally just walk into a place and get what I'm after without having to meet someone in some sketchy parking lot at night."
Inside the store, he said Cannabis NB employees knew what they were talking about and there was a lot of variety.
Although his daily life won't change much, Clark said he's relieved he can finally smoke a joint without being treated like a criminal.
"It's just a weight off my shoulders, I guess," he said.
Just like Christmas morning
Some Cannabis NB stores opened at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., while others opened at 10 a.m. across the province Wednesday. Residents lined up at local stores across the province to get their first taste of legal weed.
Robert Lawson said he's been smoking weed since he was 14.
He was one of the first customers at the Cannabis NB store in Saint John.
"This is the first time it was legal," the Saint John resident said.
"Give it a month and it'll just be like a grocery store."
Shawna Cormier wanted to see for herself what the legalization of marijuana in Saint John looked like.
"It's a big day; I was really excited last night," she said. "It's kind of like Christmas."
In line at the Rothesay store, a customer service rep is chatting with people about the need to respect the privacy of other customers & not take photos inside. <a href="https://t.co/7lrkLM5Lg9">pic.twitter.com/7lrkLM5Lg9</a>—@thewrightpage
Cormier said she smokes pot because it's relaxing, and she feels like it's something that will be good for the province and the rest of the country in terms of tax revenue and eliminating the black market.
"I'm not a drinker, I like to smoke," she said. "It's nice to see it be available just like beer is. I don't think it's this big demon that everyone's made it out to be."
A major social change
But some Canadian citizens will also need help adjusting to the new reality of legal recreational pot after decades of intolerance.
"It's major social change, and we'll see how it works," said Hazen Calabrese, a former federal prosecutor who practised in Fredericton during the 1980s and prosecuted narcotics cases, including marijuana.
"I feel badly for those who were perhaps 18-years-old, 20-years-old who, back in those days, would have served 18 months in jail for having a couple of joints of marijuana," he said.
You can take a tour of a Cannabis NB retail store with the CBC's Julia Wright
The federal government is now eyeing ways to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions.
It's a day resident Shane Warman thought he would never see. But he's not complaining.
"I think it's an awesome idea, lots of jobs and all sorts of things like that. People love it," he said.
Cannabis NB will be a major employer, having hired 350 employees leading up to Wednesday when the province's cannabis retailer opens its doors to customers for the first time. There are 20 standalone stores across the province that will operate at the same hours as NB Liquor.
Beginning Wednesday, adults can also cultivate up to four plants in their own residence and possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis.
Legalizing the substance is supposed to act as a black market deterrent and tax revenue generator, but critics in New Brunswick argue that it will do neither.
Brian Harriman, the president and chief executive officer of Cannabis NB, defended the prices, calling them competitive.
Prices for dried cannabis range from $8.50 to $15.50 a gram and pre-rolled joints from $6.50 to $7.50 each.
"We've been talking a lot about our single gram pricing, anywhere between 8 dollars and 16 dollars," Harriman said. "And the price of the product will vary depending on the product you buy and the size."
Harriman said last week he expects sales of $45 million by March 30, the end of the fiscal year, but the corporation is projected to break even after the legalization date was set back months. The province initially projected $7.2 million from retail cannabis sales.
Do you want to know more about legal cannabis in New Brunswick? Here are a few stories:
With files from Shane Fowler, Connell Smith, Hadeel Ibrahim