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Ask a Bud: 50 Years of 420

Industry friends and experts reflect on the spirit of 420 — how far we've come, and how far we'll go.

This April 20 marks 50 years of 420. 5-0.

For decades, 420 was a day for advocates to come together over a shared passion and common goal of ending cannabis prohibition. Today, it’s an occasion to remember those grassroots movements that helped pave the way for legalization in Canada, and to celebrate both the history and evolution of cannabis culture and community.

Which is why we turned to our community for their reflections. We asked some of our industry buds — including Licensed Producers like SESS, Licensed Retailers like Jane’s Cannabis, and our own OCS colleagues — to answer some frequently asked questions about how far we’ve come, where we’re going and what 420 means today.

Abi Roach

Abi Roach

SENIOR CATEGORY MANAGER, ONTARIO CANNABIS STORE

What does 420 symbolize for you?
420 is not only a day to celebrate cannabis culture and history, but also a day to celebrate my personal freedoms. Cannabis and I have been together for years; it has given me a career, a community, creativity and personal growth. I have been a pioneer in the cannabis industry for decades. After fighting for legalization, I am proud to be a part of the shaping of the new legal industry.

It’s been 50 years of 420 recognition — and two-and-a-half years since cannabis was legalized in Canada. How do you hope to see the industry continue to evolve?
I would love to see a fully inclusive industry which welcomes the legacy market to participate. It is my strong belief that the consumer base will fully switch to the legal market, when the existing market is fully immersed and licensed.

What cannabis strains do you think represent the spirit of 420?
The spirit of 420 clearly shines in strains that helped bring cannabis into the social norm. Like Jack Herer, a strain named and bred by a pioneer. Jack Herer was a brilliant author and cannabis rights activist. Other strains like Pineapple Express, Maui Waui, OG Kush and GSC also helped change the way society viewed cannabis and brought us to legalization.

 

Michael Montpetit

Michael Montpetit

OWNER AND MASTER GROWER, SESS HOLDINGS

How does the cannabis community influence your approach to what you produce and how?
When we brought genetics into our facility, we decided to bring over 300 different strains — the majority in seed format. We went with strains that would bring back a nostalgic feel, like our Big Budda Cheese and King Tut. We plan on posting our genetic bank online and having our customers choose which strains we should pheno-hunt. We would love one of our customers to pick the next strain we bring to market.

What does a diverse and vibrant legal cannabis industry look like to you?
I’ve seen many friends [be arrested] by the police for cannabis use. Things we did 20 years ago, we can now do without much stigma. For us to achieve a diverse and vibrant legal cannabis market, we need to embrace the mistakes that were made in the past and learn from them. Accessibility to funding for small entrepreneurs, erasing possession charges, and pushing bigger publicly traded companies to embrace BIPOCs in upper management and their boards. Small changes like these will lead us to a vibrant and diverse cannabis industry.

 

Dan Sutton

Dan Sutton

CEO AND FOUNDER, TANTALUS LABS

How does the cannabis community  influence your approach to what you produce and how?
Growing up in Vancouver, I was blessed to come up in an environment with a liberal approach to consumption and cultivation. Talented breeders, growers and advocates could shine bright, educating on responsible consumption of a plant that I was taught to treat as sacred. In the Tantalus cultivation environment, the sacred nature of our responsibility to nurture our plants in optimal conditions is a deeply rooted mission.

What does a diverse and vibrant legal  cannabis industry  look like to you?
I believe deeply in the future of craft cannabis. Many small growers make for a more exciting landscape than a few big ones. Tantalus hopes to help bring some of those small operators to market, celebrating genetic diversity and economic impact for the small towns across B.C. where B.C. bud got its reputation.

What’s your vision for the future of the legal cannabis marketplace in Canada?
One where everyone can participate absent the stigmas and persecution that have been rampant globally over the last 50 years. Canada is leading the way in delivering clean, quality products. I hope other nations will look at our fine example and see legalization as a gateway to rational drug laws, reduced policing expenses and clean cannabis.

 

Gary Daignault

Gary Daignault

PRESIDENT, IDEAL BUDS (DRYDEN, ONT.)

How do you build connections with your community not just on 420, but year-round?
We offer information and attempt to educate and enlighten every customer who is open to new ideas. We listen to their suggestions when possible. We get to know our clients on a first-name basis. We offer paid training for all staff and have earned the CanSell Gold Standard award [for committing to the highest standard of training]. Our employees are a real part of the business and family, and it shows in how they interact with customers. Cannabis might just be a product that needs to be sold with a heartfelt, personal touch.

What does it mean to you to be helping build the future of a legal, responsible and accessible cannabis marketplace in Ontario?
For me, it provides an opportunity to instill a genuine sense of responsibility in consumers and shed the negative stigma cannabis may have for some. We are attempting to create an informed cannabis consumer who can make cannabis an addition to their lives in a balanced and responsible way and be free of the negative stigma.

 

David Lobo

David Lobo

INTERIM CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ONTARIO CANNABIS STORE

What legal cannabis industry milestones are you most proud of?
For me, it’s about a collection of milestones that represent our ongoing efforts to consistently improve and better serve our consumers. This includes our first milestone of launching OCS.ca and proving to those opposed to cannabis legalization that we could introduce legal retailing in a responsible manner that promotes responsible consumption and the protection of youth. Surpassing the 500 retail stores mark (and counting) in Ontario is also a pretty big deal for me. I think of the diversity of people who own and are employed in those stores and I’m proud to have played a part.

What progress is being made to further environmental sustainability in Ontario’s cannabis industry?
In the last year, we have heard how important environmental sustainability is to our consumers. Working with our Licensed Producer partners, the first effort is continuing to prioritize introducing thoughtful and well-designed environmentally conscious packing. I applaud producers that have been first out of the gate in this respect and continue to encourage others to make this a top priority. At OCS we are looking at our supply chain and our business for opportunities to improve and seeing how we can support our partners in building a more sustainable cannabis industry.

 

Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson

CO-OWNER, JANE’S CANNABIS SHOP (AURORA, ONT.)

What does it mean to you to be helping build the future of a legal, responsible and accessible cannabis marketplace in Ontario?
It’s a dream of a lifetime. As true aficionados of cannabis, we love this industry and all of its potential. Cannabis is not only a great plant, but also a very enriching hobby. This amazing plant brings much happiness and comfort to so many people, in so many different ways. This just wasn’t possible before legalization.

What does a diverse and vibrant legal cannabis industry look like to you?
Our customers are diverse and vibrant; we in turn are excited to keep the industry that way.

 

Andrew Hand

Andrew Hand

DIRECTOR OF CULTIVAR DEVELOPMENT, AURORA CANNABIS INC.

How has the meaning of 420 evolved for you?
420 has always been about celebrating community, history, and personal freedom, and I believe the spirit of that has remained the same, even after legalization in Canada. What has evolved is that cannabis is becoming normalized and accessible to everyday recreational consumers and is also accepted as a legitimate prescribed medicine. I see 420 as a symbol for the progress we’ve made, and continue to make, towards personal freedom of choice and the overall acceptance of the industry.

How does the cannabis community influence your approach to what you produce and how?
It’s really important that we continue to acknowledge and pay respect to the history of cannabis and the community that got us here. I try to keep that authenticity true in my role developing new cultivars and am inspired by our legacy growers. We need to keep their generational knowledge and passion for cannabis at the forefront.

What cannabis strains do you think symbolize the spirit of 420?
The spirit of 420 is rooted in the relentless search for a mythical patch of cannabis. We translate that spirit into producing strains and products we are proud to share, [like those] brought to life through Aurora’s Cultivar Development program, which means they’re one-of-a-kind.

 

 Jeremy Guerra

Jeremy Guerra

OWNER AND MANAGER, BRANT CANNABIS CO. (BRANTFORD, ONT.)

How do you think the meaning of 420 has evolved for your community?
I consider 420 to be a celebration of legalization, even while there's still work to be done to build this industry. Canadians should feel blessed to live in a country where cannabis is legal. Cannabis has always been about building connections within the community. For myself, it has always been social and inclusive. It continues to be to this day.

What does it mean to you to be helping build the future of a legal, responsible and accessible cannabis marketplace in Ontario?
It means everything to me to help build this industry from a legal standpoint. To me, it means more access to legal cannabis, fewer restrictions and more options for the consumer, while always keeping cannabis out of children's hands. I have always been passionate about the legalization and regulation of cannabis. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be involved in the movement and push the industry forward.


Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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