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Marijuana’s first legal day is surprisingly mellow

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The sky didn’t fall. The Americans didn’t invade. Cats and dogs didn’t start embracing in the streets.

Unlikely as it seems, Canada’s first day as the world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace turned out to be pretty much just another day.

A bit hazier here, a bit giddier there, without doubt — but by nightfall, legalization was unfolding so smoothly there was even room for other news amid coast-to-coat cannabis coverage.

Buyers were able to vote with their feet in every province but Ontario and buy they did, lining up at newly unveiled bricks-and-mortar shops starting in Newfoundland, where at the stroke of midnight Ian Power, 46, become the first Canadian to possess a fully legal, fully taxed gram of marijuana. Powers, unlike most, said he had no intention of ever smoking his bounty, vowing instead to have it mounted on a plaque with the date and time. “I’m going to keep it forever.”

In Canada’s highest office, the man who made it all happen told reporters he has no plans to ever get high on recreational cannabis, despite having previously acknowledged smoking it a few times before.

Ontario may be the laggard on the national cannabis landscape — though online sales began at a frantic rate of 100 purchase a minute beginning at 12:01 a.m., no storefronts will open here until next April. Yet in a flurry of legislative activity Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford’s government passed legislation to regulate the new federal law, spelling out how and where Ontarians can buy and consume cannabis.

Although the Ford government has been criticized for loose consumption guidelines that will allow for cannabis use wherever cigarettes can be smoked, including public parks, the premier emphasized his intention to let municipalities fine-tune those rules as they see fit.

“Our number one priority is to make sure our children are safe, make sure we keep it away from schools, and make sure we let municipalities decide if they’re even going to sell it, where they can smoke it,” said Ford.

Under Ontario’s rules, the province’s 444 municipalities have until Jan. 22 to say yes or no to private bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores.

Toronto Mayor John Tory offered a note of caution in a statement to the city, saying, “For those who choose to use cannabis, I hope common-sense prevails. Don’t smoke marijuana and drive. Don’t smoke marijuana and go to work. Don’t be inconsiderate about where you’re smoking marijuana and don’t smoke it around where children are present.”

Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat, who is vying for Tory’s job in next Monday’s election, said she welcomed the Ottawa’s move to pardon past convictions for simple possession, saying that without amnesty “hundreds of thousand sof people would continue to feel the effects of outdated laws whose enforcement has had a disproportionate impact on people of colour and the poor.”

Keesmaat, noting concerns of residents about the impact of legal cannabis on neighbourhoods, said she would also support zoing amendments “to prevent numerous cannabis stores from clustering in proximity to each other and driving out neighbourhood businesses from our main streets.”

With the surge in legal online sales across the country triggering the flow of HST and excise tax dollars from the moment the government-run websites went live, Day One of legalization passed with one curious absence — no sign whatsoever of an expected crackdown on black and grey market sales. Dozens of illegal websites that had been operating for months with de facto impunity remained active — but for how long is anyone’s guess.

One high-profile medical marijuana activist, Chris Enns, told the Star it was “business-as-usual, another day like any other” at his Halifax dispensary, the Farm Assists Cannabis Resource Centre, where he remained open despite advance warning that he should expect police intervention. Though Nova Scotia has established a government monopoly on cannabis sales, the newly opened stores do not have the high-strength extracts that Enns has spent years providing for many of his patients, including people with cancer.

“The oils and extracts we have in stock are 750 per cent stronger than what the government stores have available — and we’re here to stand with our patients, to ensure they can get the medicine they require at the lowest possible price,” said Enns.

“I’m grateful on this day that our community of patients is telling us they’ll support us if we face prosecution. We have legal counsel on standby, we have prepared for plans A, B, C and D for whatever happens next. But at this moment, all is well. We’re open.”

At dusk, the Ontario Provincial Police sent a message of their own with a live online broadcast of a RIDE check timed to coincide with legalization. The live feed from the OPP was a palpable reminder that, although they don’t yet have a device that can measure cannabis impairment with the accuracy of an alcohol breathalyzer, the force has spent months undergoing upgraded training to detect impairment of any sort, including driving under the influence of cannabis.

Police in Winnipeg went one step further, tweeting a photo of the first-ever ticket, not for impaired driving but for Consuming Cannabis in a Motor Vehicle, issued Wednesday to to an unnamed driver who now must pay a fine of $672. “Just like alcohol, consuming cannabis is legal — and like alcohol, consuming it in your vehicle is not,” the Winnipeg police tweeted.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney provided the day’s most surprising twist, announcing he will join the board of directors of a large American cannabis company, Acreage Holdings, when the company is added to the Canadian Securities Exchange in November.

“Obviously we’re on the cusp of an extraordinary period of development, utilization and need in this area,” Mulroney said in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily, suggesting that while Canada is the first major industrialized country to legalize, he expects others to follow.

“This seems to be an opportunity for redemption by governments towwards their citizens, on a par that is rarely equalled … so it’s a big day in Canada, but it’s also a big day for the rest of the world who are listening.”

Apart from street-level cannabis parties, much of Wednesday’s frivolity played out online, with meme after meme riffing on Canada’s one-time moment. One widely circulated gag typical of the mood showed a supposed satellite image of Canada after legalization, engulfed entirely in smoke.

Buzzkill, however, wasn’t far away, in the form of a tweet from the Ontario Cannabis Store late Wednesday that suggested the day’s business was just a little too good, resulting in a backlog of orders that could threaten its one-to-three day delivery pledge.

“The response to cannabis legalatization has resulted in a high volume of orders,” the government-owned retailer said. “Please expected your order to be delivered within one to five business days. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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