These underground—and currently totally illegal—markets vary in terms of style and vibe, but there is something for anyone interested in learning more about cannabis. Cannabis markets can feature everything from flower (weed), to topicals and edibles. The edible scene is vast, including everything from gummies, candies and sweet baked goods to infused beverages and savory foods. The topicals scene is also growing rapidly and already features higher-end brands alongside budget staples. Products like bath bombs and soaks, tinctures and teas are also available.
This growing scene is in a bit of a frenzy given new legislation and it’s hazy direction on hot topics like edibles and cannabis lounges. Coming July 2018, Ontario legalization includes dried and fresh cannabis and ingestible cannabis oils, as well as cannabis accessories, but edibles and extracts that are currently available on the black and grey markets are excluded until 2019. Ontario is currently considering public cannabis lounges, asking for public input in early February on the issue (results not yet available), and grey market brands are working to keep their businesses open in a legalized framework.
Why Canndora loved, The Love Market
Run by The High5, a whimsical group of Toronto cannabis influencers, the Valentine’s Day themed Love Market focused on cannabis edibles and topicals. The secret pop-up location, revealed the night prior, was located directly on Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto. When we arrived, security greeted us warmly as we headed up a stairwell, quickly checking in with our eventbrite codes, and headed inside.
The space was decorated with lights and candles, acoustic jazz-pop style music filled the room and the lingering smell of weed filled the air. The Love Market featured a CBD bar, the opportunity to consume however you’d like on premise and about 25 ‘craft cannabis’ vendors. Vendors at the Love Market included Mary Jane’s Touch, Blessed Edibles, Sweet Freak, Cannabiscotti, Dragon Elixir, Fritz’s Cannabis Company, Mrs. Fudgemaker, Active Releaf, Buuda Bomb, EKS and more. Customers browsed the craft wares, connected with the vendors and relaxed, listening to the fantastic live music in the lounge area.
Common farmer’s market-like language could be heard: handcrafted; organic, quality ingredients; vegan and gluten-free varieties. The market was spaced out into three rooms, allowing a chance to speak to the people behind the business and learn more about their products and history. Many vendors expressed that they enjoyed having an opportunity to connect and educate customers.
Angelina Blessed, athlete and founder at Blessed Edibles explains, “Talking about cannabis is scary new territory for a lot of people. Educating others about cannabis, edibles, safety, how to consume and why, will be key to breaking the stigmas associated with years of uneducated guesses and misinformation. I feel like we are being given second chance with this therapeutic plant. Talk to the farmers, athletes, patients, cannabis craft advocates – there is so much information for all us to share.”
Education & Relationships Key for Cannabis
Ashley Short, CNP, CH co-owner of Earth Kisses Sky, a Canadian topicals company, speaks to connecting directly with cannabis consumers at the Love Market. ”It’s incredible! The power of choice is significant on many levels, being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals is beyond empowering. Hearing their success stories not only expands our hearts but it reminds us each day as to why we started creating our topicals.”
With so few opportunities to connect directly with consumers, cannabis markets give ‘grey market’ companies a chance to connect with the end user. But it’s not easy to drive awareness about an underground event.
In an interview with CBC Toronto about the Love Market, High5 co-founder Sarah Gillies says “[Marketing] is always tricky because you get ads taken down,” she said. “It’s a lot of word-of-mouth, and it’s really great that so many people came out today.”
Even legal cannabis initiatives face unique marketing and promotional challenges, never mind the underground initiatives, working with a PR agency can help.
The Future is Unclear for Cannabis Markets
How long these markets stick around without hassle, no one knows. Police are aware of these illegal markets, and some have made visits but no signs of trouble, yet.
The cannabis market experience in Toronto is overall quite approachable, and a great opportunity to learn about new products and a chance to ask questions. So close to legalization, it’s unfortunate that the underground markets provide one of the only up-close opportunities in Ontario to engage with the craft cannabis community. We might just go to the next one on March 17th—will we see you there? Let us know on Twitter!