High demand: Long lineups, heavy online traffic mark first day of pot retail
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, October 17, 2018 1:52PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 17, 2018 9:19PM EDT
Long lineups outside of stores and overwhelming online traffic marked the first day Canadians were able to make legal recreational cannabis purchases in Canada.
As government-operated websites launched across the country at their respective midnights, at least one sales portal suffered slowdowns and frustrating wait times due to the high demand.
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The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission’s non-medical online cannabis store experienced “heavy traffic” within minutes of its opening.
At 12:07 a.m. local time, the ALGC tweeted: “You like us! Our website is experiencing some heavy traffic. We are working hard to get it up and running. Thank you for your patience.”
Several Twitter users uploaded screengrabs showing a waiting page with the text “hang tight – we’ll get you in shortly” and their number in a virtual queue consisting of thousands.
One man posted a photo on Twitter that showed he had 6,313 people ahead of him in line to enter the site.
A spokesperson for ALGC told The Canadian Press that the surge in visitors to the site “quite simply exceeded our expectations.”
At the height of the technical difficulties, the ALGC portal saw more than 11,000 people waiting in line to make a purchase. By 12:50 a.m., however, there was no one left waiting in the queue, she said.
Within an hour of its launch, the ALGC website received 1,040 cannabis orders and more than 4,000 orders by 11:00 a.m. local time, according to a spokesperson.
The website also saw more than 61,000 unique visits to the site since midnight with 10,000 of those occurring in the first hour of operation. As of late Wednesday morning, there were approximately 5,000 purchases made on the ALGC website.
In British Columbia, a number of popular cannabis strains had already sold out by Wednesday morning, including Blue Dream, Tangerine Dream, All Kush, Kinky Kush, Temple, Banana Split, and Moon. As for the website’s cannabis oil selection, six of the 24 offered products were already sold out.
Becky Prete was first in line at B.C.’s only cannabis store in Kamloops, but she wasn’t expecting to be. “I thought there'd be a huge lineup along the block,” she told CTV Vancouver on Wednesday. Craig McCarthy was behind her and slept in his car overnight to claim his spot in the queue. Was it worth the wait? “Sure was,” he said. “Wouldn't have changed this day for anything.” Once the doors opened and McCarthy made his legal purchase, he showed off his choice: “BC Rockstar,” an indica strain high in THC levels. “I'm excited about this,” he said.
Though there were plenty in line at the Kamloops store, still some in the province were wondering if B.C. is falling behind with just one legal store so far. “At this point in time, we're working with different municipalities,” said Blain Lawson, CEO of the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. “Not everybody was ready.”
Even without any brick and mortar stores, Ontarians could still buy cannabis as the provincial government’s retail website appeared to be operating smoothly Wednesday morning with only a few sizes of certain products sold out by the early afternoon.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told the provincial legislature that the website had already handled more than 38,000 orders since it launched.
Shopify Inc. said the government-operated online cannabis stores that are powered by its software have been seeing more than 100 orders per minute. The Canadian e-commerce company said the websites, including those of Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, have processed “hundreds of thousands” of orders since the drug was legalized.
Loren Padelford, the vice president of Shopify, said visitor and order volumes were higher than a typical shopping day in Canada, but wouldn’t be as high as an average Black Friday.
On the East Coast, Maritimers were among the first to make in-store cannabis purchases at retail locations early Wednesday morning.
Newfoundlanders were the first to mark the occasion with many of them waiting up late on Tuesday night to witness the stroke of midnight for themselves. In St. John’s, Ian Power was first in line outside of a cannabis shop that opened at 12 a.m. He made the first in-store cannabis purchase in the country.
“I'm having a plaque made with the date and time and everything,” he beamed.
In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation’s cannabis store located on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax became so overcrowded that shoppers were forced to wait outside until other customers left to make room inside.
More than 100 people queued up outside a government-run cannabis shop in Montreal before it opened at 10 a.m.
One customer told CTV Montreal that he arrived first in line at 3:45 a.m.
“I wanted to be the first one buying recreational cannabis in Montreal and I did it,” Huge Senecal said. “It’s a big day in Canada. For a stoner like me, it’s a big thing. I’m a professional stoner!”
In Calgary, one shopper was even more determined to buy legal recreational cannabis for the first time. The man waited in line since 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday to visit the Four20 Premium Market in the city’s Victoria Park neighbourhood.
With files from CTV Atlantic, CTV Montreal, CTV Calgary, CTV Vancouver and The Canadian Press