Nova Scotia

Famed fiddler Ashley MacIsaac first to buy legal marijuana in Cape Breton

Fiddle by his side, Cape Breton music icon Ashley MacIsaac spent most of last night standing alone in the cold in the Sydney River, N.S., NSLC parking lot to be the first person on the island to get his hands on legal marijuana.

'I play the fiddle, I’m from Cape Breton and I smoke dope'

Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac shows off his purchase after becoming the first person to legally buy recreational marijuana in Cape Breton. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Fiddle by his side, Cape Breton music icon Ashley MacIsaac spent most of last night standing alone in the cold in the Sydney River, N.S., NSLC parking lot to be the first person on the island to get his hands on legal marijuana. 

Recreational marijuana became legal at midnight across the country.

"It is a momentous day. People have enjoyed taking home a few beers after work and sitting and listening to country songs forever. I play the fiddle, I'm from Cape Breton and I smoke dope," MacIsaac told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton.

"You know you could call it Ash Weeds-day instead of, you know, Ash Wednesday."

When doors opened at 10 a.m., MacIsaac was the first in and the first out, purchasing 30 THC capsules and a gram of marijuana in bud form.

"The first dope bought in Canada was in Newfoundland," he said, noting some marijuana stores opened in that province at midnight. "But the first dope bought in God's country was right here in Cape Breton — by me."

MacIsaac said he arrived at the store at around 9:30 p.m. (Wendy Bergfeldt/CBC)

MacIsaac is a renowned Canadian fiddler, having racked up gold and platinum record sales and toured internationally. He's won three Juno Awards and appeared on American TV shows, including the Conan O'Brien Show and the Today Show, according to a biography done by Cape Breton University when MacIsaac was given an honorary degree in 2016.  

He's also been no stranger to controversy. MacIsaac has wandered off stage during performances, spouted profanity and racial slurs during shows and exposed himself while on stage.

MacIsaac now lives in Ontario but flew back to Cape Breton to buy his first batch of legal weed. He started the line in front of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation store at 9:30 p.m. last night. The Sydney River location is the only one on the island that will sell marijuana.

First to buy 'in God's country': Ashley MacIsaac talks his pot purchase

3 years ago
Duration 0:57
Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac was the first to buy legal cannabis in Cape Breton on Wednesday. He discusses what he bought. 0:57

The fiddling great said he's used marijuana for years and it's helped him as a performer. 

"It's not the be-all end-all. It's more of a crutch for what it's been for me as a musician. I've found it's opened a lot of creative paths," he said.

"As I've got older and I continued to tour and play recorded music that I've already made, just the effort to continuously stomp my feet and play the fiddle I've had lots of muscle aches and pains; there are definitely qualities of marijuana that are healing properties."            

Once the sun came up more people joined MacIsaac, third from left, outside of the NSLC store in Sydney River. (Wendy Bergfeldt/CBC)

Besides running to Burger King for a quick bite, MacIsaac has stayed in the line all night, never once losing his spot at its head. He was joined by a Glace Bay man around 2 a.m. and the line grew again at 4:20 a.m. 

MacIsaac doesn't believe people are going to restrict their cannabis purchases to legal outlets. He said people will continue to buy from their old sources, especially in places like rural Cape Breton

"I can't see somebody from Ché​ticamp, Cape Breton, or down Meat Cove driving two or three hours to Sydney and spend $30 or $40 in gas to spend $20 worth of marijuana," he said.

Still, MacIsaac said he and a lot of other people are happy to stand in line to get marijuana.          

"I can't say that I'm upset at all at the way they've done it in the fact that I can actually stand in line here this morning and legally buy weed and not be considered a criminal for doing such."  

As for having a smoking fiddle performance this morning, MacIsaac told Information Morning Cape Breton just before 7 a.m. that it was still a little too cold to break out his bow.


David Burke


David Burke is a reporter in Halifax who covers everything from politics to science. His reports have been featured on The National, World Report and As it Happens, as well as the Information Morning shows in Halifax and Cape Breton.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton