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This bud's for you: First Toronto weed store officially open for business

Last Updated Apr 5, 2019 at 8:41 am EDT

After months of anticipation and planning, Toronto’s first legal weed store opened for business at 9 a.m. on a frigid Monday morning.

Shortly after opening its doors, The Hunny Pot at 202 Queen Street West made its first official sale.

And with that another chapter in the legalization saga was penned.

Until Monday morning, Ontarians could only purchase legal marijuana through the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

The appeal of a brick and mortar store lured a large crowd of people who lined up hours in advance for the chance to be one of the first to purchase weed in Toronto, where only one of five planned stores was ready to open on day one.

Some even camped out in the cold.

The lineup outside of The Hunny Pot near Queen Street West and University Avenue featured a mix of locals and tourists.

“I came out just to be part of this momentous day,” said a local named Ray Ray. “I’m just happy that they’re doing it, making safe available cannabis for those who want to go that way, and making some tax revenue on it too. So it’s good that’s it’s happening. It could have gone smoother but it was difficult to roll out no matter they did.”

Diego Gutierrez and his partner travelled from Los Angeles, where marijuana is also legal, to check out Canada’s burgeoning weed industry.

“As soon as we heard about it we said we have to be one of the first people there. It’s an historic day for Canada. It’s cool to be a part of this.”

Cameron Parker and his friends came to Toronto from Richmond, Virginia, where marijuana remains illegal. The idea of walking into a store and buying marijuana without the threat of prosecution was appealing.

“We are on vacation for spring break and then we saw this was opening so we just came here to try it,” he said. “I think it’s a big step and that people need to realize it can help people and really change the world. This is just a start.”

Brad Amlin, who runs a cannabis blog, drove in from Oakville and seemed satisfied with the government’s staggered rollout of stores.

“I’m not terribly concerned about the business model,” he said. “If they’re not ready to open then they shouldn’t open. They want to make sure they get it right the first time.”

The PCs had originally planned 25 stores to open on April 1st, but many were still embroiled in lengthy paper work.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday that more than half of the stores weren’t ready to open on day one, but he was hopeful they would be up and running shortly.

“Ten stores are opening, two other ones are in the cue, they’ll be opened in the next few days,” Ford explained.

“I think one didn’t get accepted so we are down to 12 (remaining). They are telling me (they will open) over the next short while. Some didn’t fill their paper work out, some it’s taking a bit longer, but I think over the next couple weeks we will get it done.

“If it means another week or two to get it right let’s do it,” he added. “I understand the supply has been ramped up right now, so they have enough supply because that was another concern we had that we’ve seen across the country. I’m sure there’s going to be little wrinkles to iron out but we are going to work closely with the stores.”

Coveted storefront licences, which were awarded via lottery, have been divided regionally, with five going to eastern Ontario, seven to the west, two in the north, six in the Greater Toronto Area and five in Toronto itself.

Stores face fines for not opening on time.

“We know that some of them haven’t gone through their proper due diligence. Many of them are now going to be subject to fines,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. “It’s incumbent on the business community to act in a businesslike way and honour their obligations to the people of Ontario or pay the price.”

But Ford said fines would only be doled out if necessary.

“If it’s our issue, then people shouldn’t be fined, if we are a little behind. We just want to make sure everyone prospers and grows and it’s not a burden.”

The Ford government initially said there would be no cap on the number of private retail stores, but changed plans in December, saying a lack of supply forced them to scale back.

With files from The Canadian Presse

 

CORRECTION: Due to miscommunication, an employee of Hunny Pot was erroneously identified as the store’s first customer on CityNews’ digital platforms.