Growing craft weed scene is bringing stoners out of the closet
Closet stoners are coming out to experience cannabis culture – and sample cannabis-infused products– alongside tourists and newbies alike at Kensington Market pop-up social club Mercado Libre this summer.
The pop-up hosted its final social this past weekend. Approximately 500 people floated through the event I attended earlier in the month, hosted by Bloom High Tea Social Club, founded by Tania Cyalume and Lisa Campbell.
Rain forced vendors indoors to the sweltering Hip Pop Art gallery. But a full slate of DJs, very enthusiastic vendors and curious public meant it was hot and crowded.
Campbell and Cyalume were inspired to combine Toronto’s rich weed lounge culture with a cannabis market after visiting cannabis social clubs in Barcelona, Spain (which, with its massive annual Spannabis conference, appears to have replaced Amsterdam as Europe’s epicentre of pot). There, the city licenses members-only organizations to produce and sell cannabis products onsite, to be used socially – like in front of everybody.
“It’s kind of a combination between a lounge and a dispensary. And it’s all rec,” Campbell says, explaining that unlike Canada, in Spain, social clubs are not about access to medicine – they’re about fun.
“It’s not necessarily about your right to medicate. It’s about your right to enjoy the plant as a part of your culture.”
Campbell’s Green Market pop-up is on hiatus until Labour Day, but their network of vendors – Alair Vaporizers, Mary Jane’s Touch topicals, the Baker’s Shop and CannaLove edibles – are all here.
As a group, Campbell says, they challenged themselves to develop cannabis drinks for the summer season, so everything from marijuana-infused lavender lemonade, kombucha, naturally flavoured fruity sodas and powdered iced tea are on offer.
But there are a lot of new vendors, too, and some selling straight-up ganja in beautiful branded jars in all shapes and colours. No Ziplocs here.
I guzzled back a gourmet cannabis raspberry-peach soda, to get a sense of what it’s like to hang out and get semi-stoned with strangers, something that normally sounds like unadulterated hell to stoners who’d rather keep the fact that they indulge to themselves.
But in the Kensington Market setting among relaxed, friendly faces, it wasn’t so difficult to experience what post-legalization cannabis culture could look like.
To be sure, the city’s cannabis scene is changing and attracting more attention from inside and outside Canada, ever since last spring’s highly-publicized police raids on storefront dispensaries.
“Toronto wasn’t known as a city that was cannabis culture-focused,” Campbell says. “But now I have so many friends from all over the world who are cannabis enthusiasts who are visiting Toronto –not Vancouver – to experience cannabis culture.”
That means extra responsibility, adds Campbell, “to make sure that what we create in Toronto will have a positive influence on the rest of Canada. Because if it’s just government stores, that’s going to influence other provinces. So, yeah, interesting times.”
Gourmet cannabis-infused soda: perfect for getting semi-stoned with strangers.