iN VIDEO: Interest, but no cannabis chaos in B.C., as legalization now in effect - InfoNews

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iN VIDEO: Interest, but no cannabis chaos in B.C., as legalization now in effect

The line up at around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 on opening day for B.C.'s first and only legal cannabis store.
October 17, 2018 - 11:47 AM

KAMLOOPS - There was a bit of a line up outside as the only bricks and morter pot shop in B.C. opened for business in Kamloops this morning, but nothing compared to Black Friday or Boxing Day sales at the local mall.

It's day one of recreational cannabis legalization in Canada and the province is relying on it's online site to meet the initial demand.

Public safety minister Mike Farnworth says his government is coping with a complex shift in policy. The online site was live at midnight and recorded about 1,000 sales in the first hour.

"It did not crash," he told a conference call just hours after the site opened. "So far, it is performing as we hoped it would."

Farnworth said business remained steady through the early morning hours, although he did not have specific figures.

He also explained the rationale behind the price of marijuana listed on the government website, which ranges from $6.99 to just over $16 per gram.

"People are prepared to pay a premium for knowing that they have a product that they can trust," he said.

"We are confident that our pricing is competitive and that it is products that people will want."

Several customers stood in line before sunrise waiting for B.C.'s only recreational cannabis store to open in Kamloops. The government-run outlet is in a strip mall. Its windows are frosted and a security guard paced outside.

Becky Prete, who works at cannabis company Tweed Inc. and is in her 30s, drove from Kelowna and stayed overnight in a hotel before arriving at the store at 6 a.m. Bundled in a blanket and sipping a coffee, she was first in line and said she couldn't wait for the doors to open.

A view from the inside of the B.C. Cannabis Store.
A view from the inside of the B.C. Cannabis Store.

"I have a feeling I'll be mildly overwhelmed because I'm going to want to look at everything, but I'm just excited to check it out," she said.

Craig McCarthy drove for two hours from Chilliwack, arriving at about 2 a.m., but his decision to nap in his car made him second in line. He has been smoking cannabis for 20 years and normally purchases shatter from an illegal dispensary.

He said he didn't mind that the government-run store doesn't carry the concentrated product, which is still illegal, and he'll buy marijuana online from now on instead of purchasing it illegally.

"I'm just happy it's finally here," he said. "It'll absolutely change my life. It's like a feeling, a weight lifted off your shoulders, when you're constantly hiding it to a degree."

Becky Prete was the first to arrive at the B.C. Cannabis Store at about 6:15 a.m.
Becky Prete was the first to arrive at the B.C. Cannabis Store at about 6:15 a.m.

The store has a clean, streamlined layout with white walls and glossy shelves. Mounted electronic tablets with touch screens display strains of marijuana available for purchase and prices.

Consumers can take a whiff of each strain from a clear plastic "smell jar" that has a small piece of bud inside. Staff carry small flashlights to help customers take a closer look at the nuggets, but otherwise the product is not openly displayed.

Some 92 products from 40 licensed producers are available, but only about seven per cent come from B.C. Kevin Satterfield, director of cannabis retail operations for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, said he hoped to increase the amount of locally grown marijuana over time.

"It's going to be, for lack of a better term, a growth industry," he said.

Craig McCarthy drove from Chilliwack to be first in line to buy legal cannabis. He slept in his car over night and when he woke up took second place in line.
Craig McCarthy drove from Chilliwack to be first in line to buy legal cannabis. He slept in his car over night and when he woke up took second place in line.

In addition to artwork featuring weed leaves and colourful glass bongs, shoppers are greeted by a number of signs informing them about cannabis with safety advice. The signs explain the types of cannabis plants, the dangers of consuming while pregnant and other safety concerns.

Satterfield said about 20 people have been hired to work at the store and they looked for staff with awareness of cannabis. All underwent criminal background checks, but a small pot possession conviction would not necessarily disqualify them from being hired, Satterfield said.

Farnworth said 173 applications for more stores are being considered.

He said part of the delay in opening stores was due to the provincial pledge that local governments will make the final decision about the types of stores — whether public or private — as well as locations and the number of retail cannabis outlets that will be allowed in their communities.

A sample of cannabis is on display at the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops on Oct. 17, 2018. Customers can look through a magnifying glass and smell the product through an opening designed to be smelled.
A sample of cannabis is on display at the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops on Oct. 17, 2018. Customers can look through a magnifying glass and smell the product through an opening designed to be smelled.

"Many communities have said they are ready to deal with processing applications ... but they want local government elections out of the way," he said.

Municipal elections will be held across B.C. on Saturday and Farnworth said he expected more cannabis stores will open in the coming months.

Reducing the influence of organized crime remains one of the key goals of legalization, Farnworth said, but he cautioned that it could take time to see results.

"In Colorado, for example, it has taken four years to get the black market in that state down to about 30 per cent," he said.

"As more stores open up and people are using legalized stores, then you are shifting away from the black market."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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