City's first cannabis store opens

There's a new shop in Prince George, and people are already loving the joint.

The first legal cannabis purchased from a retail shop in this city's history occurred at a few minutes past 9 a.m. on Thursday.

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There was a lineup halfway down the block when the doors of Grasshopper Retail Inc. opened up, and more people added onto the long snake as fast as customers exited with their historic purchases.

The first people in line at Grasshopper were Melissa Eastman and Darrel Brisson who drove more than an hour to be there.

"We don't have many options in Mackenzie, just the mail," said Eastman. She and Brisson came out smiling with a large brown paper bag loaded with the products they settled on and some extra retail items as well.

They were not the first to arrive and get into the morning queue, however. Samantha Wilson and her mother Shannon were the there at 7:30 a.m. but didn't leave the parking lot until closer to opening.

"We wanted to be in the line, but not start the line," Samantha said. "My mom has a cast on her foot so I didn't want her to have to stand for a long time. We usually load up in Chilliwack, so it's easier now that Grasshopper is here. I've been waiting anxiously for this to open."

Not as anxiously as Sue Katarynych, who has mobility challenges and chronic pain.

"I had to stop seeing a doctor for 12 years because he wanted me to stop smoking pot and force me to use opioides," she said.

"I've had to be illegal for 40 years. It was always for pain relief. It was a stupid law in the first place. I was in a wheelchair when I started using it, and it got me back on my feet again."

Ruth Johnny is a longtime cannabis socializer. She has been to two grand openings in less than a year.

The first one was in Moncton, and now Grasshopper in Prince George. She puzzled over why it took B.C. so much longer to get things underway, but she was happy to be in line Thursday morning on George Street.

"Finally, I don't have to sneak around anymore," she said.

"I've been smoking it since the 1970s. I tried drinking alcohol instead, but I just didn't like that as much. I far prefer this. We in our 60s never thought we would ever have this freedom."

Many in the lineup were still concerned about laws that overreach and regulations that make a simple thing into a difficulty, but at least the click of the Grasshopper lock at 9 a.m. was a sign of progress.

From inside the store the lineup could hear the staff do a preliminary cheer just before swinging open the doors, and the 30-or-so people outside gave them a round of applause when the first customers stepped over the threshold.

The crowd had to be rationed into the store when it reached legal capacity, the lineup growing longer just as fast as the people were taken in, a new customer in as a finished customer went out.

The line was about 40 people outside by 9:15, plus the first wave of customers inside.

Johnny was the first one to complete the purchase and exit, shaking her little bag excitedly, saying "now I'm going home with my goodies."

Shortly behind her was Graham Ash who proudly displayed his freshly purchased Aurora MK Ultra Indica jar. It was the kind he liked because it didn't have drowsiness as a side-effect.

"I thought the store was quaint. I liked it," he said. "It was simple, quick to browse, a very nice shopping experience."

The store hours are 9 a.m.. to 11 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday.

Two pieces of ID are required to enter, and only those 19-plus are allowed.

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