Old-school bong shop en­joys new cannabis era at Lift expo

Puff’s prod­uct pro­lif­er­a­tion sig­nals boom in para­pher­na­lia in­dus­try

The Province - - NEWS - NICK EAGLAND [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/nick­eagland

The Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo is big­ger and flashier than ever, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for the lit­tle lo­cal leg­ends.

All this week­end, colour­ful, selfie-friendly mar­ket­ing dis­plays stand next to shiny in­dus­trial trim­mers, light­ing rigs and joint pre-rollers at the Van­cou­ver Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, where ea­ger en­trepreneurs and well-heeled ex­ec­u­tives are shak­ing hands and talk­ing shop.

And stand­ing be­hind some fold-out tables be­tween two palm plants, Wes Kuiten­brouwer and Moss Tom­lin­son of Puff, the pop­u­lar head shop with four lo­ca­tions across Van­cou­ver, are keep­ing busy sell­ing bongs, pipes, grinders and high-tech gad­gets.

When Kuiten­brouwer co-founded Puff in 1995, he car­ried only glass bongs and pipes.

Tom­lin­son joined him at the turn of the mil­len­nium and in the years that fol­lowed they’ve con­stantly ex­panded and up­dated the busi­ness to keep up with cannabis con­sumers’ de­mands for more va­ri­ety in how they can con­sume the drug.

“Now we sell ev­ery­thing,” Kuiten­brouwer said Fri­day at the expo, which runs un­til to­day.

One ta­ble was piled with dried-herb va­por­iz­ers and con­cen­trate va­por­izer pens, which are pop­u­lar among peo­ple look­ing for a quick, strong hit. (The cannabis con­cen­trates loaded into the va­por­izer pens won’t be le­gal un­til fall, though some con­nois­seurs ei­ther stocked up be­fore le­gal­iza­tion on Oct. 17 or have found il­licit sources.)

“Ev­ery­thing’s sup­posed to be for dried herb so that’s what we’re sell­ing more of,” Kuiten­brouwer said.

Tom­lin­son said Puff’s whole­sale is ex­pand­ing and they’ve also been sell­ing more ma­chin­ery and sup­plies to man­u­fac­ture pipes and bongs.

“That’s been a re­ally grow­ing in­dus­try in B.C. and Canada,” he said.

Sales since le­gal­iza­tion have in­creased but not gone strato­spheric, Tom­lin­son said. It’s a lit­tle nerve-rack­ing watch­ing new play­ers come into Puff ’s mar­ket since le­gal­iza­tion, he added.

“It’s more com­pet­i­tive, right?” Tom­lin­son said. “A lot of Amer­i­can and pub­lic com­pa­nies have rolled in.”

But the two men said le­gal­iza­tion has been mostly good to them, help­ing their clien­tele ma­ture and bring­ing more se­niors through Puff’s doors.

“See­ing it grow like this is kind of ex­cit­ing,” Tom­lin­son said. “I didn’t know I’d see this in my life­time.”

“I didn’t think it was go­ing to hap­pen,” Kuiten­brouwer added. “I was pretty blown away when they started le­gal­iz­ing in Amer­ica.”

Twenty-four years later, Kuiten­brouwer said he still de­lights in the work that sur­rounds him with good peo­ple. He hopes pol­icy-mak­ers never change that. “But I don’t know,” he said. “It’s weird. They might change the rules be­cause we have the four shops and we don’t sell cannabis. Maybe they’ll be like, ‘You can’t sell pipes be­cause you don’t sell cannabis.’ Any­thing could hap­pen. I wouldn’t be sur­prised by any­thing in this in­dus­try.”

A lot of Amer­i­can and pub­lic com­pa­nies have rolled in.” Puff’s Moss Tom­lin­son

NICK EAGLAND/PNG

Wes Kuiten­brouwer, left, and Moss Tom­lin­son of Puff are keep­ing busy sell­ing bongs, pipes, grinders and high­tech gad­gets.

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