GIVE PEACE A CHANCE, EH?
Peace Summit Highlights The Most Cannabis Friendly Canadian City... Toronto??
What do you get when you mix five Toronto-area cannabis smoking cafes, a psychedelic school bus, edibles galore, celebrity activists sharing Nepalese finger hash, a couple pounds of Ontario’s finest herb, and 100 fans of the culture?
Organizers Matt Mernagh and Puff Mama officially labeled it the Peace Summit II. Most participants—including Americans from as far as Maine and a full posse of activists from Vancouver—simply called it a little slice of heaven. Which went fine with a fat slice of Puff Mama’s space cake. To get the right feel for the event, think of a Toronto-based mini Cannabis Cup with a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bud) policy.
Uncharacteristically warm weather on Saturday, January 28th allowed for a flawless “CannaBus Tour” of five Toronto-area smoking cafés, with Australian and Canadian national media tagging along for the contact high. The Magic Bus took participants to Clandestiny, the Kindred Café, Up In Smoke, G13, and the Hot Box Café.
Expatriate Renee Boje, whom the U.S. government is currently attempting to extradite, was in town from Vancouver to give a speech on the steps of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. Boje was joined by the Marijuana Party of Canada’s founder, Marc-Boris St-Maurice and Vancouver’s ex-seed king Marc Emery.
Each smoking café gave a different glimpse into Toronto’s pot culture. The Up In Smoke Café—about 45 minutes south of Toronto in Hamilton—offers a working class, youthful, and rebellious take on Ontario’s marijuana culture. A thick steel door in the back of the main café leads to a private smoking room, affording even the most discreet toker privacy and comfort. A sound system, edibles for sale, and soft drinks compliment the café atmosphere.
Owner Chris Goodwin—who stocks his café with a wide array of cannabis magazines, hemp food and clothing products, and novelty items (think electric neon pot leaves and pot-themed games)—ensures that his patrons are safe, comfortable, and able to purchase all the accessories necessary for a relaxing evening.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Kindred Café, an unusually upscale three-story coffee shop in downtown Toronto. Kindred offers a rooftop patio, complete with private smoking tents and a sweet view of the city. Inside, one absorbs the feeling of dignity and respect in a café luxuriously trimmed to suit the most discerning of tokers. Owner Dom Cramer was eager to host the CannaBus Tour participants at his newest entrepreneurial venture.
The Toronto (and soon-to-be Ontario) law that prohibits smoking in all interior spaces threatened to be a real buzz kill. Not to be thwarted, Cramer has installed “aromatherapy devices” in all rooms, including the primo Volcano. Kindred also offers free wireless Internet access and themed room rentals. The Kindred Café is truly otherworldly in the class and dignity it brings to the culture.
Offering an altogether different feel is the Hot Box Café, located in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington Market. The café, a deliciously psychedelic experience, is behind sister store Roach-O-Rama (a groovy headshop featuring a wide array of pipes, vaporizers, and atypical bongs). The fact that the store also sells top-shelf seeds from Amsterdam and Canada makes it all the more appealing.
The Hot Box Café promotes its self-appointed duty of “proving to Canada and the world that cannabis consumers are not a threat to society.” This stylish café, which features muted psychedelic retro vibes, is unique in offering the fullest menu of all cafés in the city. Sandwiches include a Couchlock Cordon Blue, the Bogart Special, and Blunted Brie.
Clandestiny, the shop owned by event co-organizer Puff Mama, offers a very Earth Mother, organic feel. Not your typical headshop, Clandestiny sells a variety of high quality hemp food and body care products. You can even purchase a hemp robe to show those intimate friends that you’re truly dedicated to the cause.
“Hemp is gaining a lot of respect in Canada, and I think it’s because people are pushing for a higher standard,” said Puff Mama.
Possibly the most unusual stop on the tour, for the average toker, was G13 (officially known as the G13 Mission of God). Affiliated with the controversial Church of the Universe (based in Hamilton, Ontario), G13 approaches cannabis as a holy sacrament, believing Jesus used it to heal and was himself anointed in strong psychedelic oils.
The Peace Summit’s Sunday conference and entertainment offered even more delicious Puff Mama “baked” goods and a surprisingly frank and educational women’s discussion group that included compassion club diva Hilary Black, and MS patient/activist Alison Myrden.
Joints of Jack Herer, oodles of edibles, as well as hemp and cannabis smoothies provided participants with a mesmerizing second day of fellowship and education. While not a strain competition, the soil-grown Jack Herer, generously shared by local grower Reza S., was unofficially declared by the Vancouver connoisseurs to be the most impressive strain sampled during the weekend.
After-hours entertainment included standup comedy acts and a funky four-piece band. During the festivities, Puff Mama raffled off several impressively artsy bongs made from gourds and a local compassion club raffled a large cola of Resonator, a strain that’s been impressing the pot-pampered activists of southern Ontario of late.
The cannabis scene in Toronto has become cool enough that several Vancouver-based Peace Summit participants declared the city to have eclipsed “Vansterdam”. “Toronto has gotten very very cool. No one’s ever had a tour like this in Vancouver,” said the west coast’s ex-seed king Marc Emery. “Toronto is the hippest place in Canada.”
Stoners and med pot patients living on the other side of the boarder will find Toronto to be a little piece of Amsterdam that’s within practical driving distance. Toronto is morphing into one of the hippest destinations in North America. Offering a wide variety of smoking cafés, headshops, seed shops, compassion clubs, and…oh, yeah, top-shelf weed, Toronto has become a city that can please nearly every taste and budget.
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