In the aftermath of Toronto police's Project Claudia raids on dispensaries last May, edibles quickly disappeared from the shelves of remaining storefronts. Many owners fear that their presence was motivating the police's interest.
Sarah Gillies says the raids left small business owners – many of them activists who had fought for legalization for years – with nowhere to sell their product and patients without medicine.
So she and fellow marijuana activist Lisa Campbell, emboldened by the Supreme Court's 2015 R v. Smith ruling making it unconstitutional to deny patients edibles, took matters into their own hands. They established the Toronto Green Market, a pop-up farmers' market for local vendors of cannabis edibles, topicals and crafts that's held in a secret location announced to ticketholders by email the night before.
On April 20 this year, the Green Market is hosting its biggest event yet – a block party featuring approximately 30 vendors and A Tribe Called Red's DJ NDN, who happens to be a medpot patient. (Get tickets.)
"It's about creating access, and it's also a very Toronto thing to do: a community event where you support small businesses, especially in a hard time," Campbell says. "We have things like Winterlicious in the hospitality community. If an industry is going through a hard time, we all come together. The Green Market is very much that."
Legislation to legalize marijuana is expected to be tabled this week, and Gillies and Campbell say the mood among edibles vendors and consumers is one of uncertainty. Although recreational marijuana use will be legal, it's unclear what regulations will look like for edibles, which many medical patients depend on to function. What steps will be taken, for example, to prevent kids from accidentally eating cannabis-infused candy or desserts? And what regs will be put in place to accurately measure the amounts of THC and CBD once they've been processed in a recipe?
One aim of the market is to demonstrate that edibles are safe if regulated properly. As at any other farmers' market, producers are there to answer questions. And all vendors adhere to certain standards, like labelling products with expiration dates, nutritional info and THC content. Consumers can also get handouts from the harm reduction group TRIP! about how to try edibles for the first time and avoid bad trips.
Gillies and Campbell say that by laying down these foundations, they hope to increase local brands' access to Health Canada's labs to further ensure their safety.
Ultimately, they dream of a varied legal marijuana market that makes room for small and medium-sized businesses.
"We want multi-channel retail," Campbell says, "that would include government stores, if Kathleen Wynne really wants that, and, I guess, pharmacies if Galen Weston wants it, because the city of Toronto has already endorsed them.
"But not one massive publicly traded corporation that's producing all the products. That sounds like a monopoly."
MUST-TRIES AT TORONTO GREEN MARKET 420 BLOCK PARTY
Fritz's Cannabis Company's gummies ($15 for 10) and lollipops ($4-$10)
These are ideal for people who want to start their experience with edibles in micro-doses – half a 10 mg gummy for first-timers, working your way up very gradually as needed. Lollies come in 25 mg and 75 mg varieties and delicious flavours like grapefruit and spicy serrano cucumber.
Mary's Wellness cannabis-infused teas ($30 for 12 bags, 60 mg/bag)
From energizing flavours like green tea with ginseng to ultra-soothing chamomile, you'll want to try them all. Don't miss out on Mary's coffees, too.
Blessed Edibles cannabis-infused kombucha ($15 for 40 mg, $20 for 80 mg)
Looking for a post-workout body repair elixir? "Cannabooch" is so delicious, it's difficult to not guzzle it like regular kombucha. But slow down: on an empty stomach, this Pink Kush-infused beverage can serve up an intense body buzz and, well, an inability to concentrate on just about anything.