O Canada meets O cannabis come 2018

Welcome to the new T.O. alt-stoner culture


The interior of Tokyo Smoke

On July 1, 2018, the opening lines of our national anthem are set to change from “O Canada” to “O Cannabis” (just kidding!).

However, that date is the  deadline by which Canada will become the first G7 country to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes and will officially render cannabis as part of the national Canadian identity in a new and legal way. Not to mention what that could do for the tourism industry here.

In some ways, cannabis has already been part of the Canadian identity. Years of activism and careful product cultivation have positioned Canada as a leader in the illegal cannabis market. Just one trip to the U.S. and cannasseurs everywhere will compliment you on the quality of our “B.C. bud.” 

Now that recreational legalization has a true deadline, we are beginning to see the emergence of a new cannabis culture that goes beyond the stereotypical jokes of how “Canadians are so nice because they’re stoned all the time.” 

Since Prime Minister Trudeau first announced his intent to legalize cannabis for personal use in 2015, Canada, and especially Toronto, has seen a huge shift in cannabis culture.

Moving away from the stereotypical notion of “B.C. bud,” the Toronto cannabis community has stepped up to provide a modern, cool and beautiful alternative to the traditional “stoner” culture we have grown to know and hate.

This cool, new and sophisticated culture is taking place through events such as Tweed’s Herb & Cheese cannabis event last November.

More recently, Tokyo Smoke, an international lifestyle and cannabis brand, hosted a 420 celebration at Miss Thing’s in Parkdale that incorporated everything from trendy decor to gourmet food bars and artisanal cocktails.

“It’s the beginning of a movement.” says Alan Gertner, CEO of Tokyo Smoke and one of the forces behind the April 20  event. “The cultural change will have to catch up to the legal change,” he says.

In addition to the sophistication brought to us by such brands as Tokyo Smoke, leaders in the space, like Greg Pantelic and Joshua Duchesne, co-founders of AHLOT (A Higher Level of Thought), hope that creating beautiful experiences around cannabis will help decrease some of the stigma the  community experiences today.

With legalization, AHLOT hopes to expand its idea of the ritual box, which is already in high demand, into experiential events of the carefully curated cannabis experience. The current ritual box is a package that comes with items such as a glass storage vessel, a hemp-wick beeswax candle, organic cotton filters and more to create an elevated joint rolling or cannabis experience.

“When you consider the cannabis experience, there’s all sorts of things that can happen before you enjoy cannabis, while you enjoy [it] and after,” says Pantelic as he discusses the kinds of recommendations he might make on what to do, where to go and what to eat, as a part of a cannabis-centred experience.

It’s precisely this kind of curated environment that has the potential to transform the city and position Toronto as a place where anyone can enjoy marijuana “comfortably, responsibly and with quiet confidence,” says Pantelic. 

In addition to influencing and helping establish new communities that offer fun alternatives to your parents’ basement, the modern wave has a huge potential to influence tourism on local and national levels, according to Jordan Sinclair, director of communications at Canopy Growth Corp., a group of Health Canada licensed producers who are gearing up to take on the recreational market.

Sinclair is excited at the prospect of cannabis being included in the Toronto restaurant industry where gourmet edible dining experiences have the potential to become a new staple in the city. 

Additionally, he looks forward to the day when, provided the regulations allow for it, we have cannabis tours as a complement to our existing wine tours.

Although all of this may seem out of reach at the moment, Sinclair says, “Once cannabis is legal, it will feel a lot more accessible.” 

Certainly there will be greater opportunities for anyone interested in redefining their views on marijuana use to experience events, such as the Tokyo Smoke party, or order a ritual box through AHLOT. 

The Canadian market is truly our oyster.

We have only just begun to scratch the surface of new and exciting ways to incorporate cannabis into Toronto’s social scene and tourism industry.

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Ljubica Kostovic is a cannabis advocate and the director of communications and research at a medical cannabis education service.

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