The country as a whole has much more to learn about the recreational cannabis industry that started Wednesday, but if Day 1 proved anything, it’s that some people really like their pot.
The lineups weren’t out the door like they were for the just-past-midnight opening and media blitz at a few eager licensed retailers, but most throughout the St. John’s region were kept hopping, with budtenders bustling through crowds of excited and inquisitive customers.
At Loblaw’s C-Stores, the handful of independently owned operations like The Reef Cannabis Co. in Holyrood, and the four Tweed locations across the island, sales were brisk.
From the moment the doors opened at the Paradise Green Stop, clerk Joey Penney was “flat out.”
“It’s been very experienced users and it’s new users, people who are actually interested in smoking cannabis for the first time because it’s legal now. They can trust where it’s coming from,” he says between customers streaming in and out of the little shop attached to the Esso gas bar on Topsail Road.
“It’s all quality controlled and tested, it’s all labelled properly, and you know what you're buying. It's not just a bag of weed anymore.”
It makes for two very different customer interactions.
One knows exactly what they want — high THC content Sativas were the hot seller in Paradise through the early hours — whereas the other doesn’t know where to begin.
“The people who are new… they just want to know what it's all about,” Penney says. “They don't really understand or know what to expect, so we do our best to inform them.”
“It's all quality controlled and tested, it's all labelled properly, and you know what you're buying. It's not just a bag of weed anymore.”
— Joey Penney, Paradise Green Stop clerk
For Canada’s recreational cannabis industry, store clerks are fairly limited in what they can and can’t say when communicating with customers. Any sort of medical advice, for instance, is prohibited.
“We're not doctors, we can't give you medical advice,” says David Primmer, manager of the Tweed store on Kenmount Road. “We're here to answer questions about the quality of the product, educate you on where it comes from, and the quality assurance behind it.”
Located in a space once occupied by Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, Primmer’s is the second biggest Tweed location in the country. With its exposed-ductwork ceilings, open concept floor plan and wooden accents throughout, it more closely resembles an Apple Store than a cannabis dispensary.
Like a lot of retailers across Canada, not all the products that retailers ordered arrived in time for the big day. Even Tweed, owned by cannabis giant Canopy Growth, didn’t have its best bud on display in the sensory pods that allow the user to get a good sniff and a good look at the flowered bud.
“Trying to fulfil orders for people across the country, these manufacturers are busy and they've done the best they can,” says Primmer, who notes his location probably has a quarter of the various strains they grow and carry from other commercial growers they’ve partnered with.
“We'll eventually have upwards of 48 to 52 strains at any given time, varying from Tweed to DNA Genetics — which is some of the best cannabis in the world — to Atlantic products like Organigram in New Brunswick.
“This store is going to look very different in a month. “
The Paradise Green Stop also came up a bit short of what they ordered, but they expect more shipments in the coming days, including digestible oils and capsules, products that weren’t widely available on opening day.
Penney hopes his store is well stocked to withstand the voracious demand likely to accompany the first few days of the burgeoning new industry, but even he was a little dubious considering the pace of sales three hours in.
“Fingers crossed that we're going to have enough product, but me personally, I'm kind of hoping we do sell out just to make it that much more of an impact.”