The most popular city in Canada, Toronto, in Ontario Province, currently sports eleven marijuana dispensaries. Two of which are located in Queen Street West, one of downtown’s hippest streets, Hunny Pot and Nova Cannabis. Modern and sophisticated, the famous leaf designs stamped on the storefronts catch the eye, after a full century of prohibition.
Following the legalization of the recreational usage of marijuana, in October of last year, Canadians queued up in front of the specialty shops in provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia - who waived permission for the opening of shops in the stroke of a pen. The same was expected to happy in others provinces. Today, the euphoria has died down - considerably so.
In Ontario, the physical store licenses are strictly sold and controlled. It is estimated that the government issued 25 licenses for outlets by May of this year - though only 11 are operational.
Up to April of 2018, the CBD (a component that alleviates pain) and THC (what gets users “high”) products for medicinal use were commercialized exclusively through the government run website OCS (The Ontario Cannabis Store). Despite the emergence of private physical stores, the State retained the exclusivity of online sales.
Inaugurated four months ago, Hunny Pot was Toronto’s first legal establishment. No marijuana products can be glimpsed in the store’s showcase. A receptionist verifies the identity of all clients who pass through the front doors. You must be over 19 to be allowed entrance. From outside, you can barely see the cannabis varieties on sale, such as sativas, indicas and hybrids.
Inside the shop, a masterclass awaits. Thee salesperson explains that indica plants originate from the Indian subcontinent - Afghanistan, Pakhistan and India - and the sativas from equatorial regions - like Jamaica and Mexico. The first soothes and the other gives a boost. Several shoppers are overwhelmed by the amount of accessories, like cigar cutters of the most varied shapes and forms.
What leaps to the eyes is how the space is organized. In the main floor there is a counter that wouldn’ be displaced in a quick service restaurant where one can choose, by means of a panel, the amount and types of dried buds, which are sold by the gram. A system reminiscent of tea shops. The law allows the possession of 30 grams at most.
The pill jars flaunt sell-by dates, the manufacturer and the quantity of CBD and THC contained within. Those two ingredients are highlighted in small plaques to facilitate choice.
Many clients go in solely out of curiosity. They buy nothing. There are those who go looking for more sophisticated accessories, such as a colored glass bong (CAN$150) or a pipe made of the same material (CAN$ 54). The cannabis joints are the most sought after products, explains a salesperson. Each is rolled with 1 gram containing 18,6% of THC. It costs (CAN$ 18). On average, 5 times more than in Colorado (USA). On top of which, all articles are then charged an additional 13% in taxes.
The prices haven’t scared away consumers yet. “I’d rather pay more than strike a shady deal and get into trouble with the law”, said one of the clients who preferred not to be named. When ringing the purchases up, the cashier asked to verify identification again.
Nova Cannabis has been operational for 3 months. The system is similar to their Queen Street West competitors, but their visual presentation is more effective. It helps clients locate products with more ease. They are all grouped under signs much like those supermarkets use to advertise flour and milk. In Nova Cannabis, though, the signs announce oils, capsules, pills, plants and strains, among others.
The customers are really complimentary of the transparency with which articles are labeled. Thanks to the descriptions, they can know exactly what they’re acquiring. According to them, those are critical to health and security.
Even with physical stores around, many Canadias prefer the leisure of virtual shopping. “My husband uses cannabis oil, as prescribed by his doctor”, says Akira Sepol, 40 year old mother of two. “No other medication alleviated his chronic pain. I take it as well, but for cramps.” Akira wasn’t even aware that Toronto had physical shops.
She shows off the pill jar that comes with a milliliter measure indicating the amount a patient is supposed to drip straight to the tongue. As each person has different sensitivity to pain and body structure, a physician usually asks that the patients evaluarte whether the pain goes away with the recommended dosage. If ineffective, or if it causes drowsiness, for example, Akira has a means of measuring the quantities precisely until she arrives at an ideal dose.
The market’s rise translates to generous sums of taxes that were previously left out of the public coffers. According to the country’s statistics bureau, U$ 139 millions were collected by June. It is the authorities opinion that legalization results in more jobs, new business opportunities and a means to combat drug trafficking.