Celebrating the end of prohibition on cannabis in Canada

Photo by Ethan Jakob Craft.

A momentous occasion deserves momentous coverage, and so a dedicated team of Folio staff members made their way around the city to experience and document Toronto’s cannabis legalization day celebrations. The festivities ran all day long, starting bright and early with a “wake-and-bake” in the downtown core and ending with music and dancing in the city’s west end. It was certainly a day to remember; here’s how it went:

7 a.m. — Wake-and-Bake

How do you usually start your day? With the smell of freshly brewed coffee… and weed? On Oct. 17, 2018, better known as the day Canada decided to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide, some excited Torontonians felt a morning “wake-and-bake” was in order to set the mood for this new era.

Torontonians gathered to celebrate the so-called end of prohibition with a morning “wake-and-bake” in an alley behind Queen Street West on Oct. 17, 2018. (Julianna Perkins)

So, in the alley behind Hot Black Coffee on Queen Street West, self-identified “canna-seurs” gathered for their first legal toke of 2018. The event, hosted by Hot Black Coffee and the Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop, was actually fairly enjoyable, save for the fact that it started at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. and was packed with media.

Centred on a campfire stocked with s’mores, free coffee and breakfast burritos, the event itself proved classy, clean and organized with chill DJ beats and glass-blowing demonstrations (read: bong-making demonstrations) for patrons to enjoy. Hot Black Coffee co-owner Jimson Bienenstock fielded media requests for the better part of the morning while customers milled about and seemed to have a good time. The day’s first “end of prohibition” party went off without a hitch.

Hot Black Coffee’s legalization event was full of media and customers seeming to have a good time. (Julianna Perkins)

1 p.m. — A Gathering of Stoners

In Trinity Bellwoods Park, the celebrations kicked off early in the afternoon as people gathered in anticipation of the massive communal smoke planned for 4:20 p.m.

In the midst of the various stoners collected in the park were a group of entrepreneurial young men who had just dropped out of their respective university programs to pursue a same-day weed delivery business. Verda, which they call the “Uber Eats of weed delivery,” is currently operating out of Winnipeg until Ontario allows private companies to sell cannabis next April.

Verda’s founders Mackenzie Ferguson (left-centre), Evan Adcock (centre) and Stephen Masseur (right-centre), and two of their friends represent their brand at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Oct. 17, 2018. (Larry Heng)

4:20 p.m. — Search and Smoke

Deeper inside of Trinity Bellwoods Park, some chose to celebrate the end of prohibition with a quiet solo smoke.

Others participated in an Instagram scavenger hunt hosted by a creative medical dispensary owner by the name of @therabiddabber, with the help of his business partner, @2highmedia.

@therabiddabber in the flesh, seen enjoying a joint in Toronto on Oct. 17, 2018. (Larry Heng)

6 p.m. — Vice presents “Weed Did It”

In a more formal setting in honour of legalization day, Folio RSVP’d to Vice Presents: A 10/17 Celebration, hosted by Vice in collaboration with Tweed, a Canadian marijuana company. Even though the event at the Drake Hotel was set to start at 6 p.m., by 5:45 the line already held about 200 people and stretched down Queen Street, curving around the corner and snaking north along Lisgar Street as people continued to arrive.

Those lucky enough to get into Vice’s 10/17 event at the Drake Hotel mingled over free food, alcohol and weed. (Andrea Josic)

When we finally got into the lounge, the smell of weed wafted around the room and clouded the booth area. Downstairs, there was an open bar with free alcohol, a buffet of finger foods and large containers with a variety of candy and chocolate. The atmosphere felt almost club-like, except it wasn’t sticky, painfully loud or impossible to move. It was, more or less, peaceful.

The staircase led to a second floor which featured another buffet and a vibrant patio entirely decked out in neon pink lighting, palm trees and space heaters. Several times, we were offered free joints, edibles and dime bags of weed by complete strangers who just seemed happy that cannabis was legal. In the far corner of the patio, there were people handing out gifts, which included a Tweed drawstring gym bag, a Tweed T-shirt, and Vice branded lighters, grinders and copies of Vice magazine’s Power and Privilege issue.

The event was pretty well-executed, especially considering entry was free to the public. We didn’t stay long enough to see any of the performers, but the special guest was Kaytranada, a Canadian DJ and music producer. Well done, Vice.

The decor was wild and perfectly matched the event’s vibe. (Andrea Josic)

7 p.m. — The Weed Bubble Record

On the south side of Trinity Bellwoods, another stoner identified only by his hashtag, #churchofbubbles, was preparing to set the world record for “most weed bubbles blown” at 6 p.m. After smoking several joints, the event was pushed back to 7 p.m. and required multiple attempts before a decent amount of bubbles actually ended up being blown. The idea was that each person would take a hit from a joint and blow the smoke through a bubble blower to create an opaque “weed bubble.” In an attempt to count, we can confidently say that less than 20 bubbles were blown in total, and the record attempt unfortunately failed.

A crowd gathers to roll a massive joint and blow bubbles in Toronto on Oct. 17, 2018. (Larry Heng)

“We’re all just bubbles,” proclaimed the host, eyes rolling back as he spoke to me. “You can’t put a wall around a bubble or the bubble will pop.”

As we walked out of the park at the end of a night, the guy beside us turned to his friend and said “Now the novelty of smoking weed is gone and I’m never going to smoke weed again,” before the pair burst into giggles. Evidently the law wasn’t stopping them before, and now it won’t stop anyone. Today and forever more, weed is for everyone in Toronto who can legally smoke it. Prohibition has ended in Canada and, according to smokers in the city, it couldn’t have come soon enough.

High or not, Torontonians have always been a little weird. (Larry Heng)


This article was written with files from Charles Buckley, Ethan Jakob Craft, Larry Heng, Emma Johnston-Wheeler, Andrea Josic and Julianna Perkins.