Nfld. & Labrador·Weekend Briefing

Oh, to have been a fly in the air when Pam Parsons and Dale Kirby smoked a joint

It turns out one of the unexpected cannabis stories this week played out two years before legalization.

Harassment report provided an interesting cap on a weed-filled week

A newly released report says Pam Parsons and Dale Kirby smoked marijuana outside a Liberal convention in 2016. (CBC)

It turns out one of the unexpected cannabis stories this week played out two years before legalization. 

On Friday, Dale Kirby — the former minister of education, now an Independent MHA sitting apart from his former colleagues in the Liberal caucus — released a report that he says clears his name over harassment allegations brought against him.

Well, with one notable exception.

Bruce Chaulk,  commissioner of legislative standards, found Kirby had violated a code of conduct while the two spoke outside a Liberal convention in 2016. 

The report reveals that during the provincial Liberal party AGM in Gander, Parsons — the Liberal backbencher representing Harbour Grace-Port de Grave — had a private conversation with Kirby. 

That, at least is how Parsons described in her complaint of harassment, pointing out that Kirby had said he "wanted to get along with me" and that Kirby told her "you are beautiful and I love you.… I want us to work together, but you have to stop being so vocal." Parsons described the encounter as "demeaning, patronizing and sexualizing talk." 

Kirby used rather different details to describe where the conversation happened — and what the two politicians were doing at the time. 

"In reality," Kirby wrote to Chaulk in reply to Parsons' complaint, "during the social she mentions, the complainant asked me if I wanted to smoke marijuana with her." 

Chaulk, despite finding that Kirby had crossed a line, concluded that Kirby's comments were "not sexual in nature." Chaulk, probably noting the weed-smoking revelation, also said, "I found MHA Kirby's evidence relating to this conversation to be compelling in that he provided details that did not paint him in the best light and which formed more coherent story than that of the complainant." 

It's important to note that Kirby himself released Chaulk's report to the media. It's embedded below (click here if you don't see it). 

If you want to read more about the above, go straight to page 9. 

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In the lead-up to legalization, we in the newsroom wondered if some prominent folks would be the first to step out of the shadows and disclose that they smoked cannabis. 

We seem to have an answer, even though Kirby was rather coy during a CBC interview Friday afternoon about whether he and Parsons smoked up. 

This week in weed 

Customer Ian Power, Tweed's first customer at its Water Street shop, talks with reporters early Wednesday morning. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, here's something that's been on our mind about politics and weed. 

Dwight Ball, who is as close to an image of tidy, clean living as you're likely to get in #nlpoli, is likely the reason why there was a full-on spectacle on Water Street on Tuesday night, as retailer Tweed opened its doors to sell recreational cannabis legally in Canada for the first time. 

Two other companies were up and running that night, too, but Tweed — a national presence already, and the storefront presence of Canopy Growth — was hoping for a media burst. 

Boy, did that ever happen. 

An estimated 400 people were in line to purchase cannabis at the Tweed retail store on Water Street in downtown St. John's on October 17, 2018. Local growers want a chance to supply retail stores like this one. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

There would have been a crush if Tweed's plan had rolled out as it thought: a sensible morning opening, a photo op, some headlines. Huzzah. 

But the week before, Dwight Ball (think about it: Dwight Ball!) said he could see no reason why stores couldn't make the first sales at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 17. The man is premier, after all. 

And so retailers changed their plans, and we saw a lineup that stretched from Water Street down to Harbour Drive. 

It may not have been reefer madness — the product was all over the place, but no telltale puffs of smoke — and was more like midnight madness, or the sort of crush you see at the mall. 

About 400 people lined up outside Tweed, and hundreds of thousands of people either watched our live coverage on Facebook or read our report that night. 

Here are some highlights of the night. 

What a deal on mushrooms! 

Lineups were common at other shops, including smoke shops embedded in Dominion stores operated by Loblaws. 

Our colleague Amy Joy spotted a real contrast at one store the other night.

In one corner, a line that stretched on and on to get into the smoke shop.

In another corner, at the liquor store … there was no one in the lineup at all. 

Another colleague, Lee Pitts, captured one of the smoke shop lineups in this tweet below ... and kudos to Fred Hutton for pointing out a great sale on canned goods. 

Here today, gone … later today 

There were rumblings that supply would be an issue at cannabis retailers, but it turned out to be an issue right out of the gate. 

For a smile, here's a satirical take from Cathy Jones and Susan Kent of 22 Minutes

Staying the course

If you're a St. John's Morning Show listener, you may have heard (frequently) that Fred Hutton knows his way around a golf course as well as, say, a political convention. 

His on-air demeanour is not mean, but his swing sure is. 

Of course, golf season has more or less wound down, so, yeah. Our condolences, Fred. (We're hoping Fred will accept our invitation to write about the laments of the golfer in the off-season.)

Weekend Briefing this week was compiled by John Gushue. 

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