Spliff Magazine

The Green Rush in Kensington Market

Kensington Market, in the heart of Toronto, is home to generous people, one-of-a-kind shops, and a thriving counter culture. The market earned recognition as a Historic Site of Canada in 2006; however, its history hasn’t impeded the market from diversifying and continuing to develop its unique character in the Toronto of this millennium.

By offering a home to new entrepreneurs, artists, and unique small business the market presents an atmosphere unlike any other in Toronto. The monthly Pedestrian Sundays during the summer see all the roads blocked off and flooded with people. A massive assortment of buskers and vendors come from across the city to celebrate, rain or shine, making the Kensington an ideal location for any visitor.

The Market has seen a rapid influx of medical cannabis dispensaries over the last year now housing almost 1/3 of the dispensaries located in Toronto. Many of these dispensaries come from pre-existing cannabiz locations in Vancouver who have recently been under attack through licensing and zoning laws: some people saw hard times others saw opportunity. They traded mountain views for a new start among the skyscrapers of Toronto.

Kensington Market seems to be the natural spot to home a dispensary due to the pre-existing cannabis acceptance in the neighborhood brought forward by Abi Roach and her cannabiz entrepreneurship having opened Hotbox and Roach-O-Rama back in 2000. For over 15 years the local community has grown to accept and normalize cannabis use across the spectrum: young or old, medical or recreational.

It has been no secret to the general public what happens at The Hotbox Café. People bring their own cannabis and consume it in a safe, welcoming environment: it didn’t end the world or even the neighborhood. In fact, it has only added another flavor to Kensington Market. Fast-forward to 2016 and Hotbox is busier than ever trying to expand and grow with the anticipation of the new Liberal government finally ending cannabis prohibition.

However, with no immediate changes in the current laws people are still left with essentially only two options. One, they consume cannabis recreationally and they know a guy, or a guy who knows a girl, or some cute old grandma who can help you out. Or two, they use marijuana medicinally and have seen a professional physician about their condition(s). These people will have been prescribed medical cannabis as a treatment/cure. With their prescription they can legally order from one of about 30 licensed producers (LPs) of cannabis in Canada. It then arrives in the snail mail… a few days later. Boring.

The dispensaries in Kensington Market, and everywhere else in Canada, have a few different ways of operating in the so-called “grey area”. They offer patients immediate access to medicine and provide patients with knowledgeable staff to help answer important questions for those who are new to marijuana as a medication. Local authorities tend to turn a blind eye with the understanding they won’t sell to minors and will only sell to patients.

Some dispensaries have stricter rules to become a member such as multiple pieces of supporting documents to attain medical cannabis. Which can be a long or difficult process. Others offer a simple in-house or video chat meeting with a doctor and you’ll have access to medical quality cannabis that same day.

At the end of the day, the local Kensington Market dispensaries, regardless of their differences in policies or products, are only just the beginning of cannabis normalization. There will be more in the future and I hope we grow to accept them. As an entire nation heading toward cannabis legalization we’ll need model dispensaries and others cannabiz, such as lounges, to bring cannabis to the world’s attention as a safe and social part of this new millennium.