As a New York City-based writer, I’ve longed for the day the state would legalize adult-use cannabis. While still hoping for that news this legislative session, the sting of knowing that other states and nearby neighbor Canada are already there is real. So, I headed up North to see what the festivities would be like as Canada legalized adult-use consumption and sales.
Ontario is the most populous province in Canada. Yet, when the country legalized adult-use sales in October 2018, the province opted to only allow sales online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, or OCS. Private brick and mortar locations would not come until April 1, 2019. Due to licensing issues, not all of the 25 approved shops opened on the first day of sales. Toronto did not see all its shops open on April 1st. One, The Hunny Pot, did open. Despite the less than anticipated number of stores opening on April 1st, The Hunny Pot’s opening was met with excitement, according to various reports.
On April 18th, I traveled to The Hunny Pot to see for myself. Located on one of the city’s busiest streets, Queen Street, The Hunny Pot is situated near the middle of two cross streets. A line of customers stretched down the street, just wrapping around the corner convenience store by the time I arrived in the late afternoon.
The line was a mix of ages and backgrounds. Many concerned over the pace of the line were pleasantly surprised. I found myself inside in about 20 minutes. Two buyers in their late 30s or early 40s remarked to me how adult-use sales are exciting, but they were more interested in seeing the store than the sales itself. Instead, they were more excited about being able to bring cannabis across state lines on domestic travel and other opportunities that came with legalization.
However, while waiting, I was concerned about prices as one customer bemoaned about the cost of their products. “You pay for the packaging,” he could be heard exclaiming.
Inside the store was a sleek, three-story operation led by scores of salespeople well versed in customer service. Supplies on certain strains, pre-rolls and other items were thinning as legalization buzz and 420 stocking up came to a head. That said, I bought 3.5 grams of flower, fifteen 10mg capsules and two pre-rolls for roughly $126 US. I may have overpaid, but it was tolerable and close enough to prices back home.
On Friday, I spoke with the folks at Friendly Stranger, a well-known cannabis culture shop in the area. They told me they expected a large turnout on 420. I picked up a wood burned pipe just in case I couldn’t come back on the 20th. I’m glad I did.
The night saw the unofficial start of 420 celebrations. 7 Acres held its Session Garden, billed as a celebration of the plant, community and culture. The 19+ event featured food, music and an open bar in addition to several products to check out. The crowd had thinned but was still rather busy by the time I arrived later in the evening. People were dancing as the DJ played. Meanwhile, many others networked until the event wrapped at 11pm sharp. Those in attendance represented a healthy mix of well-dressed cannabis enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and casual consumers.
The rain began to damper events Friday night and would do so even more on Saturday the 20th. That said, attendees still turned out to major events in Toronto. That included the opening of another dispensary, Nova Cannabis. At 11am, the rain was coming down in cold spurts while a small line of customers lined up to get in. Cannabis educator Jonathan Hirsch documented the day on his Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Okay we stopped by @novacannabis_ on queen street to grab a little @7acresmj jean guy!!! Super kick in the face strong and a good moisture level. Love it. Nova was cool with a deli vibe. I really dug the friendly staff. And then i got To hit the @narcglass owl pipe with OG Robin founder of @the_friendly_stranger! Go get some heady glass ASAP from there store in queen. #cannabiscommunity #canadiancannabiscommunity #cannabiz #respecttheplant #imafriendlystranger #420 #710 #7acres #ganjapreneur #openingday #novacannabis
Hirsch was one of many to brave the elements and attend several other 420 events going on in the city. That included the city’s largest 420 celebrations in Woodbine Park. The event hosted by comedian Vandad Kardar and featured scores of performers through 6pm. Unfortunately, the day was one of many affected by the spurts of cold raining coming through. On his Instagram, Hirsch called the event “mud fest 2019”. He told The Marijuana Times that despite the weather, the event was well organized.
Other happenings included the block party held by Hot Box Cafe. One attendee told me that it was “nothing special”, but did note that this person had been to numerous events in and out of Toronto. Others not so used to these events may have enjoyed it more. Other festivities around the city included the 420 Comedy Festival at numerous venues, Funk Fest 420 and the Cannamas 420 popup interactive market, among others.
Overall, the day was subdued by the elements, but this did not deter many from celebrating. Across the city, people celebrated cannabis legalization and its sales finally coming to Ontario. With the size of the city, the presence of 420 festivities could have been easy to miss. However, those in the know were able to locate and participate in events that showed the maturation of the market as a legalized entity in Canada.
While the buzz over legalization wasn’t as excited as I had expected, Toronto showed me what New York could have if legalized. A sprawling city with pockets dedicated to cannabis consumption and social causes are already present in each city. With hope, New York will soon follow suit and allow these events to be held in a legal market.