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Photos by Jenn Jefferys.

Ahead of legalization, the budding cannabiz hits the capital

By Jenn Jefferys on November 2, 2017

A wide variety of consumers and businesses descended on the capital this past weekend for the first annual Lift Cannabis and Hemp Expo.

With plenty of buzz around the Government of Canada’s plans to legalize pot for recreational use next year, dozens of vendors were on display along with a full slate of workshops on everything from bong glass blowing to cannabis-infused cooking demos.

Guests heard from industry leaders on the latest health benefits of cannabis, how to prepare for the pending legalization of this once-highly stigmatized drug in Canada, and what the global science and research communities have to say on pot.

Ex-Royal Canadian Air Farce star turned ganja activist Alan Park kicked off the weekend’s seminar schedule with a talk and plug for his new podcast Green Crush. Park, who was once diagnosed with stage four terminal prostate cancer, credits the fact that he’s still alive today to his use of medical cannabis.

“One hundred percent cannabis is responsible for my resurrection,” Park argues. “My doctor is surprised that at this point I’m still here.”

“I was given no option, no choice. That’s what gave me the freedom to try cannabis without asking, without filing papers, without hoping it was okay for some bureaucrat to say ‘yeah you can do that.’ I was done; there was nothing else. So I used it, and immediately I got results.”

Park says that his new popular new podcast explores, educates and advocates for the democratic decriminalization of cannabis by way of “irreverent, funny and empowering dialogue.”

A number of licensed pot producers (LPs) were also on site over the weekend including Bill Sutherland of Growing Edge Technologies, who’s been training fellow growers on the science and formulas required for optimal grow room conditions since the early 1980s.

Pete Young – co-founder and master grower of London Ontario’s first LP, INDIVA, and owner of one of Canada’s oldest head shops – said he and his team were at the Expo “to show people that you run a cannabis business with morals and dignity.” Young says he’s a bit concerned with the pace at which the Canadian cannabis industry is booming – and about the government’s plans to control and regulate it.

“I’ve been in the medical cannabis industry since 1995,” Young said. “We at INDIVA want to show that we have roots in this industry whereas a lot of these other LPs don’t. We want to continue the ‘movement mentality’ of the cannabis industry – whether it be recreational or medical.”

Simone Vandersteen and her colleagues were at the Expo to promote their new cannabis-themed café and dispensary that’s soon to open up in Montréal. Her ‘café et dispensaire,’ Québud, was sampling a few flavours of their homemade weed-laced tea. Vandersteen said the energy and enthusiasm for cannabis these days has been great.

“People are really excited to be able to come out and talk freely about [cannabis]. We’ve had really good reception about our brand and our concept,” she said.

20 year-old Algonquin college student and resident of Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg reserve Elijah Morin visited the Expo. He said he was there to network and to learn how he could bring medical cannabis back to his Indigenous home community as a form of local economic stimulus – so the reserve can eventually break away from its need for government subsidies.

“This plant will aid in the revitalization of my culture,” said Morin. “As the medical research goes further so will the jobs in the industry.”

Another big draw at the Cannabis and Hemp Expo was the on-site vape lounge – where medical patients were invited into a reserved space in the center of the tradeshow to relax, socialize and try out the latest and greatest in herbal vaporizers. Given that vaping devices tend to be on the expensive side, the vape lounge offered Expo visitors the chance to try before they buy.

Kevin Blackburn of Canwest Productions, who co-organized the Cannabis and Hemp Expo alongside popular digital cannabis community resource Lift, confirms that between 6,000 and 8,000 people took part.

“The show was a great success,” said Blackburn. “We’re looking forward to coming back next year, especially once cannabis has been legalized for recreational use.”