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UPDATE: Customers in Newfoundland and Labrador brave cold, wet, windy night to be the first to buy legal cannabis in Canada

Tweed CEO Bruce Linton (left) launched pot sales in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, at 12:01 a.m. Ian Power (right) and Nikki Rose were the first customers.
Tweed CEO Bruce Linton (left) launched pot sales in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador , at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Ian Power (right) and Nikki Rose were the first customers. - David Maher

First sale of legal cannabis takes place at the stroke of midnight in Newfoundland and Labrador

Anticipation ran high as the clock ticked closer to midnight on Water Street in St. John’s.

Once the countdown concluded, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians became the first Canadians who could legally get high, too.

Nikki Rose, from Southern Labrador, and Ian Power of St. John’s were the first to enter Canopy Growth’s Tweed location, becoming the first two customers in the country’s history.

“Here we go. You did it. The first legal receipt issued in Canada. In your bags, Health Canada information and your product. Thank you very much,” said Canopy Growth CEO Barry Linton, who sold the pair their cannabis.

“Congratulations. You made history. We all made history.”

A selection of cannabis awaits in a display case at Tweed’s Water Street location on Wednesday morning.
A selection of cannabis awaits in a display case at Tweed’s Water Street location on Wednesday morning.

Rose, who’s boyfriend manages the Kenmount Road Canopy Growth location, says it’s surreal to be at the focal point of history.

“I think it’s very monumental that Newfoundland, just because of our time zone, is going to be the first to legalize, which is super exciting,” said Rose.

“I don’t really have words to describe how excited I am.”

For Power, legalization of cannabis in Canada isn’t just about recreation.

“It’s given me my life back. I used to wake up every morning with severe migraines. I was hit by a drunk driver many years ago,” he said.

“Cannabis lets me have my day normal, without headaches, without any pain.”

Thomas H. Clarke’s cannabis store in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's also saw more than 100 people get their first hit of legal cannabis early Wednesday morning.
Thomas H. Clarke’s cannabis store in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's also saw more than 100 people get their first hit of legal cannabis early Wednesday morning.

The lineup at the Water Street location stretched down Clift-Baird’s Cove, at least 200 people strong when the clock struck midnight. A similar line was found at the Healthy Vibe, also on Water Street.

In Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, where Thomas Clarke sold his father his first legal cannabis, another line stretched 150 people deep.

“The first sale of legal Canadian weed!” Clarke shouted, to be heard above the whipping wind.

The crowd responded with another cheer, applause and several shouts of, “Tommy!”

“This is like the new 4-20,” said one young man, referring to April 20, a date that in recent years has seen rallies and smoke-ins across the country in support of legalization.

Inside the warm store, which also features an array of paraphernalia such as T-shirts and toking tools, a customer who inquired about seeds was told that none were available yet anywhere in the province.

“The Newfoundland Liquor Corp. hasn’t been able to find a seed supplier that is approved by Health Canada,” Clarke said.

By 1:30 a.m., most of the customers had been served, but about 50 were still waiting outside, with only 30 minutes to go until the store’s 2 a.m. closing.

Some wanted to enjoy the moment, some the product, others came out to be a part of Canadian history.

“It’s a huge part of history. We’re going to tell our kids about this,” said Ryan Slaney, who lined up with brother Patrick Slaney in the cold, wet, windy St. John’s night.

"History is a big factor of it. But it’s going to change everything to do with how people are getting it, supplying it."

Patrick Slaney says he hopes the move will work to lessen the amount of illegal cannabis out on the street, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

“I think there’s always going to be a market within Canada, but as years go by, I think studies are going to show it’s going to lower the rate,” he said.

“I’m not going to say from the organized crime perspective, but from the marijuana perspective, I really do think there’s going to be less people supplying illegally on the street. It’s going to be a process.”

In addition to buying cannabis at storefront locations, it can be purchased 24/7 online through shopcannabisnl.com.

Earlier in the day, the province revealed what the rules surrounding cannabis sale will be, as well as the penalties for those who break the newly implemented laws surrounding the drug’s use.

A lineup, which started before 10 p.m., stretched almost 200 people deep on Water Street on Wednesday morning.
A lineup, which started before 10 p.m., stretched almost 200 people deep on Water Street on Wednesday morning.

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Retail Sale of Cannabis

* Licensed cannabis retailers are not permitted to co-locate with licensed lounges (who sell liquor) or pharmacies.

* Cannabis stores (tier one and tier two) are not permitted to have minors present in the store and are required to immediately verify the identification of any person entering a location who reasonably appears to not be of legal age. Minors are permitted to enter tier three and tier four locations but are not permitted to purchase product.

* In addition to cannabis, cannabis stores (tier one and tier two) are only permitted to sell cannabis accessories, non-alcoholic beverages and promotional items. Food sales are not permitted.

* Tier three and tier four locations do not have these same restrictions, however, tier three locations can only sell cannabis and cannabis accessories at the dedicated cannabis counter.

* Retailers are prohibited from providing samples. They cannot donate or provide free samples or combine the sale of cannabis or cannabis accessories with any other product with the purpose of promoting the sale of cannabis or cannabis accessories.

* Cannabis sales in store are permitted between 9 a.m. and 2 a.m., seven days a week subject to the store’s hours of operation and the Shops Closing Act. Online sales are permitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

* Retailers cannot run promotional activities like games, lotteries, contests or competitions to encourage cannabis or cannabis accessories sales.

* Licensees are prohibited from making any health-related claims respecting cannabis, or to provide any information on medical cannabis other than as provided by the Federal Government.

* Online content hosted by licensed retailers cannot include:

* Health and safety information and links other than as provided or approved by the Government of Canada, the government of the province or the NLC;

* Information which encourages irresponsible behaviour or cannabis consumption in a manner that is not socially responsible; and

* Information about cannabis for sale that is false or misleading.

* Carriers of online product are not permitted to deliver cannabis to anyone other than an adult and are not permitted to leave it at an unanswered door.

Place of use

• Cannabis can be consumed:

    • In private residences;

    • In hotel rooms or in apartments of multi-unit residential buildings, at the discretion of the hotel or the building’s landlord.

Home cultivation

* The maximum number of plants that can be “homegrown” would be four per dwelling.

* Cannabis must be grown in an area such that the plant(s) is not visible from a public place and may only be grown in secure enclosed buildings or structures, not outside.

* If an individual has more than one residence that could be considered a dwelling house (for instance, a cabin) an individual can only grow cannabis in the residence in which they ordinarily reside.

* In the event there is more than one adult in a home the limit remains at four.

* If a resident lives in a multi-unit residential building (i.e. an apartment building) it is the landlord’s discretion whether cannabis can be grown there.

Cannabis impaired driving

* Zero tolerance for the presence of THC for novice drivers, drivers under age 22 and drivers of commercial vehicles;

* Seven-day vehicle impoundment for the presence of drugs for novice drivers, drivers under age 22 and drivers of commercial vehicles;

* Seven-day vehicle impoundment for all drivers exceeding the legal limit for the presence of drugs based on Standardized Field Sobriety Test/approved testing device (Draeger DrugTest 5000 once deployed) and/or Drug Recognition Expert;

* Thirty-day vehicle impoundment for all drivers for refusal or failure to comply with a demand, consistent with alcohol; and,

* Medical users are subject to all the same rules

Earlier story:

Ian Power and Nikki Rose are the first Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to purchase cannabis legally in Canada. 

When the clock struck midnight, customers were allowed in two-by-two to purchase their first-ever legal grams of cannabis. They'd been waiting in the cold and wind for Wednesday's historic event.

Tweed CEO Bruce Linton wanted to be the one to make the first official legal sale of cannabis in Canadian history, at Tweed’s location on Water Street in downtown St. John’s. 

“It’s unbelievable,” said Linton. 

A number of stores across the province, including the Natural Vibe in St. John’s and Thomas H. Clarke’s business in Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, opened from midnight to 2 a.m. to be the first to make their sales. 

They’ll close up and reopen at 9 a.m, beginning the new normal across the country: cannabis has been legalized in Canada. 

More to come

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