SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - As people were waiting in line for opening day at Summerside’s first legal cannabis store Wednesday morning, an older man pulled up in a car.
“Waiting for that store to open, boys?” he inquired.
There were only about six people in the line at the time. A few answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
“I got better stuff than that in the car. A lot cheaper too,” he answered.
Those in the line gave a few nervous chuckles, as if trying to decide if the man’s offer was serious or not. Regardless, no one took him up on his proposition. He drove away with a scowl on his face.
It was an odd moment in a day full of odd moments around P.E.I.’s new legal cannabis stores.
Cannabis officially became legal in Canada as of 12:01 a.m., Oct. 17. Cannabis P.E.I.’s provincially-owned online cannabis store went online at that time.
By the time the doors opened in Summerside there were about 30 people waiting. People came and went throughout the day and the line out the door stayed consistently long.
Most in the early queue were happy to chat about cannabis and legalization, but attaching their names to their comments for the newspaper was something else entirely.
One man said he believes strongly that legalization is a good thing for Canada and he’d love to be able to talk openly about that, but said he is a federal government employee and is worried about the stigma that remains attached to cannabis.
That attitude might change in time, he said, but for right now, he would rather there be no public record of his recreational activities.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the people who are going in to buy marijuana (from the stores) have smoked it before, I think, anyway. And as far as kids getting pot – they could get it last week, they’ll be able to get it next week. It won’t make any difference.”
Another man who declined to share his name for similar reasons said he had experimented with marijuana in high school but had not smoked it in more than 20 years. He always believed it should have been legalized, he said, and he wanted to make a purchase to show that support.
“I’m just here to say I bought some on the first day,” he said. “People have been smoking it for ages anyway, they should have did it like cigarettes years ago. Tax the hell out of it, make a bunch of money – like they’re going to do now.”
Colin Whitley didn’t mind giving his name. At this point in his life, he chuckled, he has little to hide.
He applauded legalization and predicts there will be few downsides to the social experiment.
“I think a year from now people won’t even have noticed anything happened,” explained Whitley. “I think the percentage of new people who are going to be smoking is infinitesimally small. Ninety-nine per cent of the people who are going in to buy marijuana (from the stores) have smoked it before, I think, anyway. And as far as kids getting pot – they could get it last week, they’ll be able to get it next week. It won’t make any difference.”
The federal government has stated that the one of the main reasons it has pushed for legalization is to drive the illegal market out of business. Those in the line Wednesday morning were not confident that will happen anytime soon.
“It’s all about price. I think they are fantastically foolish if they think $10 per gram is a good price for marijuana. The illegal growers will certainly come way down off of that. It’s been happening already.”
Customers coming out of the store after making their purchases generally reported it being a positive experience. One person expressed worry at the fact that people’s IDs were being scanned prior to their being allowed in the store. Another said he found the system confusing, but that he expects it will improve as time goes on.