I decided I would go to Vancouver while sitting in my cubicle, at a desk in an office with no windows. Weed was going to be legal in Canada the next day, and I didn’t understand how or why I was invited to go to a party celebrating that fact, but life is short and I have vacation days, so fuck it. I’m in Canada less than 48 hours later, at an event hosted by California-based cannabis brand DNA Genetics, who were celebrating their first day of legal distribution in Candada (via a company called Tweed). I was also told Cypress Hill would be there.
Above: Cypress Hill tells Canadians to smoke weed
I don’t know shit about weed. I mean, I love weed and have loved it for 20 years, but I don’t know the industry or strains or really much more about the plant than the fact that sativa will get me through three episodes of Trolls with my children.
Inside DD Mau, a small but comfortable Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown, I was led into a bar filled with Canadians who knew a fuckton about weed. These Canadians make up a large fraction of the people responsible for Canada’s legalization, and they were there just to smoke and chat with people like me, a pretend cannabis journalist from Texas. I quickly felt like part of the family.
A dude handed me a pre-roll while another dude scrolled through his Instagram feed, showing me the glass pipes and bongs he had hand blown. One woman told me she doesn’t know shit about weed as she downed a beer at the bar.
It all felt so welcoming, and why wouldn’t it? These are the people largely responsible for winning the War on Drugs – just a group of friendly Canadians loving weed in every possible way.
Above: Bryan, Farham, and me
Outside on the street, where it had just become legal to smoke pot, Mat Beren passed me a joint. “I got my start growing a single plant in my closet with Christmas lights,” he says. As the owner of the House of the Great Gardener seed company, Mat helps match patients with strains appropriate for their ailments. He was warm and spoke to me about his transformation from a dude growing weed in a closet to a dude who helps people improve their quality of life through cannabis.
Over the course of the night, I discovered Mat’s generosity was not uncommon. I met activists, growers, lawyers, bankers, corporate relations people, marketing execs, and that one friendly woman who didn’t know shit about weed. It was overwhelmingly beautiful to see and hear all of these varied perspectives together in one place.
They shared lots of moving stories with me that I wasn’t prepared for. John Conroy, a lawyer with 45 years of work a criminal defense attorney, talked to a group of us about decades of defending people from fucked-up laws. I chatted briefly with Hilary Black, who opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in Canada in order to get her friends, suffering from AIDS, access to medical relief.
I became a little emotional and repeatedly had to hold back the weepies and pull myself together. I was also very high, very thirsty, and way out of my comfort zone (which largely consists of my bed and the cubicle at the office I work in). I latched on to some industry bros for some nice familiar bro-chat, and they helped me pull my shit together.
Industry bros/my new best friends, Bryan, who manages brand partnerships at PROHBTD and Farham, would have been completely at home in your average corporate setting. They’re well-dressed, well-spoken, knowledgeable about their industry, and they have a passion for DD Mau’s calamari. The two of them shared a perspective wholly different from the activists––one filled with unbridled enthusiasm for things like blockchain startups, marketing budgets, and microdosing for productivity.
The calamari kept coming as I drank a gallon of water. I briefly thought about what it would be like to have a billion dollars.
Above: Candy Dispensary that has no THC
Next door, the Fortune Sound Club had a line outside snaking around the block. One organizer mentioned she had been randomly handing-out tickets to a Cypress Hill concert that night. We walked into the venue, and I was led to a press room that seemed truly insane.
The room was full of plain-ass candy and weed professionals. I asked if the candy would make me stoned, and it is then that I discovered edibles won’t be legal until 2019– this is 100% the worst thing about my entire trip. People were screaming, cameras were rolling, mics were overhead, and I stood awkwardly in a corner waiting for a chance to interview Aaron from DNA Genetics, the company throwing this party. Aaron just so happens to be the first American to purchase legal cannabis in British Columbia.
"It's a trip, the fact that we were at a strip mall earlier today buying legal weed with our logo on it. It's pretty dope,” he said. I love strip malls, and immediately respected Aaron’s pursuit of banality. These brave souls are going to change the world by occupying retail space in strip malls next to bridal shops, ink and toner stores and, in most cases, a Subway that reeks of shitty bread.
Above: Inside the Fortune Sound Club
People filled up the Fortune Sound Club as Mix Master Mike ripped an amazing, energy-filled set. Nobody danced because everyone was already submerged in a (metaphorical) giant Canadian bong. I moved slowly around the venue, looking at people whose lives were different that day than they were the previous day, or, at least I think it’s different. I’m pretty sure everyone at the party was stoned the day before too, but now, with the permission of the Canadian government, they can smoke weed in specifically designated areas at the Vancouver airport.
Above: Canada is nice enough to remind you to empty your pockets before you leave
Cypress Hill played every anthem Canada needs, and I appreciated the christening. The one about bongs, the one about insanity– they rang true in that moment. Weed’s favorite rap group stood on stage, all wearing DNA Genetics-branded 420 jerseys. B-Real held up a blunt that looked like a baseball bat. “Light it up if you’ve got it,” he commands.
The Canadians, gracious hosts as always, comply.