The Lift Cannabis Expo at Metro Convention Centre until Sunday afternoon estimates 10,000 in attendance.
Sat., May 28, 2016
Toronto resident Vicki Trueman swears by cannabis oil to treat her chronic migraines and insomnia, as do some of her friends who suffer from seizures and depression.
Though she and her pals have doctors’ prescriptions to access the medicine legally, Trueman said she has no problem with people buying it for recreational use, particularly on the cusp of legalization in Canada.
And, echoing the overwhelming sentiment at the Lift Cannabis Expo Saturday, she said it’s “ridiculous” that Toronto police raided 43 pot dispensaries last Thursday, just two days before Canada’s biggest cannabis convention welcomed thousands of industry people from around the world.
“It makes me very angry. They’re trying to frighten and intimidate people who have run these businesses for years,” said Trueman, who cruised the booths at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Saturday afternoon.
Ilya Strashun, who manned the Cannascribe booth to promote the company’s longtime medical marijuana prescription service, agreed the arrests and charges were unnecessary, given the federal Liberal government has pledged to make it legal as early as next spring.
“It’s upsetting because Toronto and Canada are going to go that way no matter what, and the recreational side will be a huge part of the market,” he said.
Strashun added it’s important for people to have access to a safe product rather than face the risks associated with buying unregulated products on the street.
Staff from Cannabis As Living Medicine, or CALM, still set up their exhibit and promoted various products, from vaporizers to grinders and lighters to “Weed The North” T-shirts, despite having seen three of their locations in Toronto shut down in the raid, dubbed Project Claudia.
“It’s all political. It’s all a cash grab,” said one CALM employee who did not wish to be named.
“In the meantime, sick people are calling us and crying that they need their medicine, and we can’t help them,” he said.
But he doesn’t expect the CALM dispensaries — located on Church St., Breadalbane St. and Eglinton Ave. W. — to stay closed for long, vowing to be back in business as soon as possible.
Despite the fear surrounding the Toronto crackdown, Mary Mullin and her husband came from Montreal hoping to get information at the expo on how to set up their own dispensary once Ottawa tables legislation, expected in April 2017.
“It’s the future,” said the retiree, who sees it as a potential business opportunity.
“You don’t want to spend $100,000 on product and set it up the wrong way, so we’re here to find out how it’s done,” added Mullin.
Hill+Knowlton Canada presented research the firm conducted recently with 1,000 people across the country and found the vast majority of people have pondered the legalization of marijuana, and that it’s on their radar.
“It’s not a fringe issue; it’s a mainstream issue,” said Elliot Gauthier, a national director and vice-president of the company.
He noted that half of respondents prefer marijuana, once it’s legalized, to be dispensed in edible form, whether in cookies, lozenges or beverages. The vast majority of Canadians think it should be sold in pharmacies.
The president of Tweed Inc., a medical marijuana company in Smiths Falls, said Canada is being watched internationally on the proper approach to legalization.
“It’s a great opportunity for Canadians to show the rest of the world we can sell cannabis and not have any problems,” said Mark Zekulin.
“This is a $10-billion industry and a new market, so it’s exciting,” said Karen Waugh, a Windsor-based account representative for Qualicaps, which makes the capsules for medical cannabis oil.
“I think the rest of the world will eventually emulate what Canada is doing,” she said.
Mat Beren, of House of the Great Gardener, a licensed marijuana plant seed provider on Vancouver Island, said he was kicked out of Friday’s press conference on the raids when he loudly asked Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders for evidence of any physical harm caused by marijuana.
Still, he said some dispensaries need a wake-up call, because they are “pushing the boundaries” of what they are allowed to sell to the public.
“They are selling three times as much as licensed producers,” noted Beren.
The trade show floor has 130 companies selling everything from hydroponic grow-op lighting and mega bongs to sharp, antibacterial scissors for more precise herb trimming.
A “vape lounge” hosted a steady flow of people using vapourizers, along with many curiosity seekers, and cooking demonstrations — showing how to incorporate medical marijuana into everyday healthy meals including pesto chicken sandwiches, salad dressings and smoothies — were also popular.
There was a light-hearted side to the conference, with a few exhibitors wearing fake pot plant necklaces and green wigs. The reusable Lift Expo convention bag handed out to attendees had a quote on it from Canadian actor and pot enthusiast Seth Rogan: “Let’s Be Blunt — It’s Good.”
The convention ends Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 online and at the door.
Pot convention buzzing over Toronto raids