Long lineup at London’s first legal pot shop

Central Cannabis Owner Chris Comrie stands inside his newly opened store at 666 Wonderland Rd., April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

London’s first legal brick-and-mortar cannabis store opened its doors to great fanfare on Monday.

Dozens of people waited in a line that stretched down the sidewalk and into the plaza parking lot for a chance to be among the first inside Central Cannabis at 666 Wonderland Rd. The green ribbon was cut on the retail pot outlet by owner Chris Comrie around 9:30 a.m.

Dozens of people line up for the grand opening of Central Cannabis at 666 Wonderland Rd., April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The lineup outside of Central Cannabis.

“It was a lot of work,” Comrie said about getting the store up and running in time for the April 1 launch date, set by the Ontario Progressive Conservative government. “The timeline was aggressive, but I am really excited I was able to pull it off.”

Central Cannabis was one of only ten cannabis retail stores given the green light to open Monday. That is fewer than half the 25 stores the provincial government had wanted launched by that date. Until now, recreational marijuana could only be purchased legally in the province through the government run Ontario Cannabis Store website.

Looking at the long line of customers waiting to get inside his new store, Comrie said it was the kind of reception he had hoped for.

“You have to be careful with expectations, but I was hoping for this kind of turn out,” said Comrie. “Everything is running very smoothly and there is a lot of excitement.”

Comrie had enlisted the help of Corner Cannabis CEO Jon Conquergood in order to meet the opening deadline set by the province.

“It was a race to get to the finish line,” said Conquergood. “Chris was very cautious, not wanting to sign the lease or begin construction until he had his operators licence from the Ontario government, which is the right decision to make. At the same time, it compressed our construction schedule so we have been working extremely hard the last three weeks to get this store built.”

The outlet’s tight security includes a complete camera and alarm system. Customers are asked for identification twice to verify they are of legal age – once before entering the store, and again before making a purchase.

“We also keep the cannabis in a very secure vault that is specially created and manufactured. The whole store is built around the vault so there is no easy way to get in or out of it so we take that consideration very seriously,” said Conquergood, who has opened 14 cannabis stores across Alberta. “A lot of those requirements are defined by Health Canada and we just want to make sure we have the safest store available.”

Jason Geldhof shows off some of the marijuana he purchased at London's first legal cannabis retail store, April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Jason Geldhof shows off some of the marijuana he purchased at London’s first legal cannabis retail store.

Jason Geldhof, 40, drove from Goderich early Monday morning to be the first in line at Central Cannabis.

“I bought a half quarter of Wappa and a half quarter of Kosher Kush,” said Geldhof. “Wappa because I work for 7 Acres so I bought their product because it has a great smell and a great taste and Kosher Kush because I wanted to try something different.”

Geldhof described the inside of the store as “a beautiful place.”

“It’s well set up, it’s nice, they have got their smell jars. It’s designed for LPs, the products are there, you can get a good visual. They have everything from rolling papers to dry packs. Very clean. You don’t smell anything to do with cannabis in there,” said Geldhof.

Mike, who did not want to provide his last name, purchased Pink Kush and praised the staff for its professionalism.

“Staff were really knowledgeable, able to answer any questions I had and the displays and presentation was on par with other places,” said Mike. “I’ll be coming here quite frequently for my marijuana needs.”

He did note, the price points were a “little bit” higher than on the black market.

“But that being said, you’re getting what is advertised and what you are paying for, so I guess that is the biggest advantage of buying from a brick-and-mortar, legal cannabis store. You’re going to be getting the same product every time that you buy, it’s a relief that way,” said Mike.

Two other legal marijuana storefronts are expected to open in London, J. London at 691 Richmond St., Suite 5 and Tweed at 1025 Wellington Rd. It is unclear when either of those two retailers will officially open their doors.