Lit: The first annual kind magazine cannabis legalization summit

The Panel (from left to right):
Elias Theodorou: professional mixed martial arts fighter, Theodorou, a kind columnist, is the only professional athlete in the world with an exemption to use medical cannabis to compete in his sport.
Trang Trinh: After working in M&A at Deloitte, the 34-year-old TREC Brands’ CEO left consulting for legalized cannabis, where she runs her CPG-like house of brands as one of the few female Canadian cannabis CEOs.
Ben Kaplan: Editor-In-Chief for kind magazine and moderator.
Shawn King: Former host of the influential cannabis podcast Turning a New Leaf and The Amazing Race Canada contestant, King is head of marketing at PAX Labs Inc., and a kind columnist.
John Fowler: Founder of the Supreme Cannabis Company, which had a billion-dollar valuation in 2018, Fowler’s a lawyer, and race and cannabis advocate. He runs Blaise Ventures, a legal cannabis business consulting firm.
George Smitherman: Former Toronto mayoral candidate and first openly gay Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario, Smitherman is CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada.
Jacqui Childs: Influencer, advocate and model, Childs uses her heavily followed social media platforms to promote kindness and cannabis, tolerance and unity. She is a kind columnist.
Abi Roach: One of the nation’s foremost leaders of the Canadian cannabis underground, Roach, founder of the Hotbox Cafe in Kensington Market—which she sold to Friendly Stranger thus pivoted from illicit to legal market—now works as a Senior Product Manager at the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Tyler James: Community Coordinator for Cannabis Amnesty. James is an advocate for the expungement of cannabis possession records and the inclusion of the legacy community into the legal cannabis market.
This physically-distanced conversation was moderated by kind Editor-In-Chief Ben Kaplan at the El Mocambo in Toronto on September 9, 2020 (Shawn King zoomed in from Halifax, Nova Scotia). This interview has been edited and condensed for space.
  • BK: What are we raising our joints to as we celebrate this anniversary in Canada?

    George Smitherman: A fairly courageous act has moved forward and the sky hasn’t fallen. I’ll be raising a joint to that.

    Trang Trinh: The objectives of legalization were protecting our youth and combating the illicit market and the illicit market has decreased in market share by about 30%, which equates to about $2 billion—and the child-resistant packaging is sometimes adult-resistant as well.

    Abi Roach: We’re the first G20, G7 country in the world to legalize cannabis. We paved the way for the war on drugs to end—because we’re going to keep pushing for other drugs as well.

    John Fowler: I’m raising a joint.

  • BK: I know—but to what?

    Shawn King: We did it.

    JF: To the fact that we can even do this. There's 30 million people who can walk into a store and buy legal pot, walk right up to a cop, spark a joint and go along with their day. That is a novelty that will take a very long time to wear off.

    Shawn King: Cannabis circumstances in Canada will never be worse than the first few weeks of legalization. Since then, we’ve only gotten better. I still can’t believe we pulled this off, but we did. I raise a joint to that almost every day.

  • BK: Elias, while the rest of us hang out with stoners, you hang out with professional athletes. Do your opponents call you a pothead?

    Elias Theodorou: I’d kick their ass.

  • BK: Is there much stigma still in professional sports?

    ET: Many athletes would prefer plants over pills. Not only in MMA, but also the NFL, NBA and NHL—usually right after guys retire.

    Tyler James: We’ve moved the yardstick so much that in another five years anything is possible. We’re getting to the point where the only thing we’ll be complaining about is quality.

    Jacqui Childs: We’ll always be complaining about that.

    JF: We had a retailer in Toronto last week that put their entire store at fifty-percent off. It’s such a wild concept. Your drug dealer would never call you, "Half off! Come on down!"

  • BK: Jacqui, earlier you told me a beautiful story about you and your son. Why don’t you talk about legalized weed in terms of being a parent.

    JC: I have two grown boys in their 20’s and raised them in the Nancy Reagan “this is your brain in the frying pan” bullshit. Until two years ago, I was on nine medications a day just to function like a normal person. I wasn’t able to have a real human relationship with my child.

  • BK: How did cannabis change that?

    JC: I’m now almost three years pharma-free. And my son works at Tokyo Smoke and he brings home cannabis and I bring home something, and we have these amazing conversations about the world around us, our parents, and his future, and what cannabis has done for my life personally and for my family—I owe a ton of gratitude and an amazing debt to the community.

  • BK: I remember when I started writing about weed, even from people assigning me stories, they’d be almost laughing at the industry.

    JF: When I left my law firm to run 7ACRES, I had a partner call me in and he goes, “Fowler, how will you not get cheesy stains all over your work?”

  • BK: I bet when the money started rolling in things all changed.

    JF: We probably raised over $100-million before we could get through a meeting without someone cracking a joke. It was the weirdest concept because the cheques were real and the people writing them didn't take the industry seriously.

    AR: When I had Roach-O-Rama in Kensington Market in 2000, people thought the cops had cameras on our street corners and they’d be using heat sensors on roofs to find grows. My whole thing was about normalization, promoting the concept that smoking a joint with your friends is no different than having a beer or a glass of wine. It wasn’t for cannabis consumers. I mean, it was for their enjoyment, but I worked for non-cannabis consumers to show them that it’s OK what’s happening. No one is being murdered, no one is being stabbed.

  • BK: And now you work for the government.

    AR: Proudly, and in 20 years, I’ve seen people move from being afraid of buying rolling papers to me creating a strategy of what kind of papers do we need the province to carry.

  • BK: George, you as our politician—

    JC: I’m getting good vibes off him.

    GS: I should leave while I’m ahead. It wears out fast.

  • BK: Do you get flack from your friends that are still MPPs for being the face of legal weed?

    GS: I’m like the Rodney Dangerfield of lobbyists.

  • BK: Does that piss you off?

    GS: No. Colleagues tell me the government is like that to everyone, but I do worry that lost in this is the idea that a producer's license is a license to print money. These businesses are start-ups and it’s years of expenditure before there’s revenue. There’s lots of stigma generationally in political Ottawa, but I’m glad to be in the job.

  • BK: Why?

    GS: Because I’m going to expense cannabis.

    JF: Your first cannabis expense report is a lifetime achievement unlocked.

  • BK: Trang, George says he feels stigma in Ottawa. Do you feel stigma amongst your former colleagues at Deloitte?

    TT: If you talked about cannabis prior to 2016, you’d be shunned, but growing up in the professional services it’s my responsibility to empower people to share their stories. That’s the only way to break down stigma.

    JC: My first six months of coming out of the cannabis closet saw all of my bread and butter clients walk away from me. It was, ‘She’s gone to pot,’ and I received letters from lawyers. So in the beginning, the stigma was awful, but now? Now I don’t give a shit. We’re building something spectacular in Canada—you get cannabis from the Canada Post!

    SK: It’s saving Canada Post. But there are some negatives and somethings that we never want to brush over, like Cannabis Amnesty.

    TJ: Cannabis Amnesty feels that the cannabis industry would be well served to adopt some of the socially progressive practices of other industries, other companies, like Ben & Jerrys, like Patagonia, where their progressiveness didn’t hurt their bottom line.

  • BK: So what do we do?

    TJ: Right now, no one has brand loyalty. But if more companies supported the community, you’d get organic growth. If you want to hit the cannabis demographic, if you want people to transition from their dealers to the government-sanctioned online store, it’s not just convenience, you want to believe in the ethos of the brand. The one company that did it best was John at Supreme.

    JF: I’m very aware of the fact that from 13 years old to October 16, 11:59, 2018, 24 hours a day I was at risk of getting arrested because I liked to smoke weed. If I made one wrong turn multiple times—and I’ve been stopped by police and not arrested—but if I was darker, I would’ve been arrested—no being a lawyer, no running a company.

  • BK: So how’d you put being woke into action?

    JF: Everyone told you you can’t hire people with records in cannabis, that’s false. So we started hiring people with cannabis convictions and they turned out to be some of our greatest employees. From there, it’s relatively easy to make the leap from a cannabis conviction to all people with criminal records. If you could sit in the chair across from us and explain how you’ve been rehabilitated, people deserve the chance.

  • BK: So where do we go now after two years, what’s next for legal weed?

    SK: A year ago I would’ve answered it wrong with a lens on marketing and say, ‘loosening some of the marketing restrictions.’

    GS: Never use the word ‘loosen’ with a regulator. I tell people to say, ‘evolve.’

    SK: Maybe we’ll see some ‘evolution’ like we’ve seen with bylaws on where you could and can’t smoke cannabis. My goal for 2021 is to see cannabis more accepted and for all of us to keep sharing what we’ve learned. What do you guys all love about weed?

    GS: My children recommend it to me.

    JF: I like smoking weed because I’m good at it.

    AR: I smoked my first joint at a Black Crowe’s concert. Some hippy said, “Hey man, want to try this?” That was it for me. I don’t drink alcohol. I quit cigarettes. Cannabis is just my thing.

    JF: My dad has been using medical cannabis, and one of the best moments was watching my dad load a vape and get so fucking stoned around a kitchen table with my mom and my sister and there he is, eating and feeling good, and the next day he goes, ‘I don’t think it did much. . .’

    TT: Cannabis is about making an impact and leaving a legacy. I want to pave the way for other women—this is still a male-dominated industry. I want others to see that I can be a woman and be Asian and be a lot younger than a lot of our older male colleagues.

    JF: Why are you looking at George?

    GS: Fair target.

    TT: The other thing is to give back to our communities and putting ideas into action. We give 10% of all of our profits to causes that put people and the planet first.

    ET: I’m a fighter, literally. In a cage against an opponent or in a courthouse against prohibition. But Canada moved from the darkness and into the lightness with prohibition, and I helped serve the knockout punch for cannabis prohibition in sports. Other athletes won’t have to go through what I did.

    JC: I celebrate cannabis for my own sobriety. People say, “Sobriety? Jacqui, you’re high all the time!” It’s that California sobriety, but it keeps me grounded. I’m a great mom and a great wife on cannabis—this is my second marriage and I wasn’t smoking pot then—it was red wine and pills.

    SK: My dad is a military vet. I’ve watched him with pills and patches for years. One day I said, “Dad, why don’t I take you down to the cannabis medical clinic and see if you can try this?” He wasn’t feeling good. But he experimented and tried capsules and I asked him how he’s doing. “I haven’t slept better in 25 years,” he told me. “Now, when I go to my shed and look for my tools, instead of throwing things around, I just kind of look for them.” That’s what happens when we share the knowledge.

    GS: I love meeting an older person who’s become enlightened. Canada is a global cannabis leader and we will be welcoming more newcomers for years.

    TJ: If cannabis is going to be a legal thing, I want to be an active participant and an agent of change. All of us in this room, all of you reading this story, we’re part of change. We all add to the history of cannabis.