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P.E.I. cannabis stores open with big crowds and fanfare

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The air was pungent and the mood was jovial as P.E.I. cannabis stores opened their doors to long lines of weed consumers Wednesday morning.

Cannabis became legal in Canada at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, and stores in Charlottetown, Summerside and Montague opened at 9 a.m.

The Charlottetown store was a hive of activity all day, with people lined up to the end of the building.

One man exited the store, held his purchase high in the air and shouted, “I got weed!”

Others sat in their cars, playing music on their radios and very clearly smoking cannabis.

Damon Inlow was waiting in line to make his first retail purchase early Wednesday afternoon.

The biggest benefit of legalization is no more criminal records or jail time for simple possession, Inlow said.

“Taking out organized crime and all that is important, but saddling a responsible user with a criminal record for just using a herb? It was pretty ridiculous, so it’s about time they fixed that.”

Inlow has been a medical user for more than a decade. He prefers to consume the product by vaping or taking capsules.

“For me, not much is going to change, but at least I can now buy it in person in a retail store.”

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Edwin Jewell, who runs the only licensed producer in P.E.I., and he said his employees were also in a celebratory mood Wednesday.

“I think it’s a great day for Canadians. To think that young people who perhaps in the recent past would have received a criminal conviction for using cannabis for personal use, that’ll no longer be the case.”

As well, consuming the drug will no longer create problems for job prospects or travel, and that’s a good thing, Jewell said.

“It’s great to think that finally Canada is leading the way as an industrialized country to really forge a new path worldwide in terms of how cannabis is dealt with.

“So I think it’s quite a credit to our country.”

As customers stood waiting in the rain, Zach Currie of the P.E.I. Cannabis Management Corporation emerged from the store to thank patrons for staying mellow.

“Everyone’s been really patient and everyone so far that I’ve talked to has really enjoyed their experience in the store,” Currie told The Guardian.

“It’s been a really exciting process for us … we just hope everybody enjoys their first experience and that you guys are motivated to come back.”

Stephanie Warkentin (left)and Robert MacNeil, check over their cannabis purchases at the retail store in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Oct. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brian McInnis
Stephanie Warkentin (left)and Robert MacNeil, check over their cannabis purchases at the retail store in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Oct. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brian McInnis

Website sales have been “excellent” since went live at midnight, Currie said.

“We were up until the wee hours (Tuesday) night, monitoring the throughput levels. It’s kind of exciting to watch that.”

There are no concerns about running into a shortage of weed, he added.

“We took a proactive approach and tried to lock up as much as we could. I don’t think we’re going to be running out anytime soon.”

The province is partnering with 12 licensed producers across the country and one accessory provider.

Canada’s Island Garden is supplying the province with 1,000 kilograms in the first year, Jewell said. 

“From our company’s perspective, we don’t anticipate any shortages. If we hadn’t been able to fulfill our requirements yet, it would have more to do with packaging than it would be to do with supply.

It’s exciting to be the only licensed producer on the Island, Jewell said.

“To be able to supply our neighbours with cannabis, it’s quite an honour and quite a privilege for us to be able to do so.”

The stores are open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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