by Al Graham
The weekend of June 3-5, 2011 brought many activists, patients, and vendors to Toronto as Treating Yourself Magazine launched the 2nd Annual Treating Yourself Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
While the previous year’s Expo surprised many people, this year’s version didn’t suffer a sophomore year jinx, as it literally blew away last year’s show. This year there were more vendors, bigger crowds, and everything was on one floor.
The convention center is a perfect location to hold such an event, as it’s located in the city’s downtown.
It features three large halls as well as several meeting rooms, and is perfect for an event that requires access for handicapped people to come and go as they please. If you don’t drive or have a car to get there, you’re in luck, as this venue has access to all of the public transportation within the city.
As with any event, you build off of the last show and you improve it.
This year, event organizer Marco Renda left no doubt in anyone’s mind that was exactly what he did. Instead of having the show placed over three floors, he set up everything such as the theater, the vapor lounge, and the vendors, all on one floor and within the same hall. When it came to the vendors, Marco worked the phones really hard and managed to fill every booth that he had available. I understand he may have had to turn some vendors away, which should bode well for next year, as it signals more vendors want to get involved.
There were 140 vendors that were present over the week-end. They came not only from both coasts of Canada, but also from the United States and everywhere in between. Many of the vendors even crossed over the big pond, as some of the finest European cannabis companies were present. Arjan, Franco, and Olaf were present from Greenhouse, Martin from RooR bongs was back for a second year, and Luke, the owner of Paradise Seeds, was present once again. The show also had small grow stores, such as BMA Hydroponics from Belleville, Ontario, and large growing companies such as BC Northern Lights setting up booths. You could also visit with the folks at Indoor Growing Solutions, an Internet-based company, to pick up everything that you need to grow with. There was even a tractor-trailer set up as a growing facility present for everyone to see. The compa-ny known as Grow-Bot manufactures trailers of different sizes into grow rooms, and while they were present, they provided show-goers with tours of their massive 53-foot-long grow trailer.
If you were looking for something different, there were many places, such as KDK Distributing from Calgary, Toronto, Hemp Company, and KushH.
You’re looking into some new food products, you say. Then the Expo had that covered as well, as suppliers such as Advance Nutrients, Green Planet Plant Products, Gro4 Organics, and Erupt420 were all present. The people from these companies could answer any question that you may have had about their products and how it’s best to use them.
When you have your license to grow your own medica-tion, you’re always looking for the correct strain that suits your needs. In order to help you with that, the Expo brought in many of the top seed companies to help you out. Some of the seed companies represented on the floor were Paradise, Greenhouse, DNA Genetics, Serious, Delta 9 Labs, Kannabia, and Nirvana, to name a few. If you wanted a place that gave you options to the many different seed companies, then you could visit such places as the Vancouver Seed Bank, Royal Queen Seeds, and Medical Marijuana Seeds Wholesaler.
There was no shortage of vaporizer companies and dis-tributors present for you to talk to. All of them had their products out on display for you to take a good look at. You could venture over to the HerbalAire booth to get a
good look at their product or check out a location such as Vaporizers.ca to get a look at the many options that are available to you. While at it, you could also stop over to the people at Vape Shapes to pick yourself up a cannabis leaf-shaped bag to add to your new vaporizer. If you wanted to try out one of these medical devices, you could do so at the Treating Yourself Vapour Lounge. This 4,200-square-foot room would allow patients to come in and test out the many vaporizers available today. The vaporizer demonstration tables, which included units from HerbalAire, Volcano, as well as two versions of vaporizer bongs built by RooR and Verdamper, were set up around the outside of the room. The center of the lounge was filled with tables and chairs set up in the mid-dle for the patients to enjoy a rest before heading back out onto the Expo floor.
If you’re into glass, such as bongs and speciality pipes, there was no shortage of these for you to view or pur-chase. Many companies, such as C&G Wholesalers, Lethal Glass, Pure Glass, as well as some of the top European glass available from RooR and Percolated.co.uk, were also present. One of the places that had the wildest glass available was appropriately named 1 of a Kind Glass. This booth had about a half-million dollars worth of some of the craziest and finest glass on display. For me and many others, seeing this dis-play created a lot of buzz. This was proven by its third-place showing in the Treating Yourself survey filled out by show-goers to find the best booth.
The TY Expo isn’t about getting high; it is about educating the public about the medical value of cannabis. While attending the Expo, you could hear from cannabis experts such as Dr. Robert Melamede, who teaches at the University of Colorado, or Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, who is a neurologist at Tampa Bay Hospital and Patient Out of Time cofounder Mary Lynn Mathre. Irv Rosenthal, one of four remaining US federally licensed patients, was present and he spoke about his journey to become legal medically in the United States.
There were also many patient lobby groups present, including MMAR Lobby Group, Medical Cannabis Access Society, People Advocating Cannabis Education, and even the United States-based group Patients Out of Time. These groups, as well as many others that were present, would help people with their questions about the medical uses of cannabis and help explain what they are doing to get the word out about cannabis as a medicine.
There were also lobby groups, such as POL-COA Defence, Why Prohibition, End Prohibition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P), NORML Canada, all who are fighting to bring an end to the unjust cannabis laws that we have here in Canada and around the world. All of them are working overtime to help spread the truth about cannabis, and for us here in Canada, what will happen with the new laws that our Conservative government is bringing into force.
Are you a person who is having trouble getting your doc-tor to sign your application but maybe willing to sign one for a compassion center? If so, then the Expo had com-passion centers such as Med Cann Access, CALM, and
the Toronto Compassion Centre present to help you with this. These centers all require you to fill out an applica-tion, which goes to your doctor to verify your condition before your application is accepted. There was also a new group present, The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, which was put together by several centers in order to set standards and other con-ditions that the compassion centers will use nationally.
If you wanted more education, such as how to grow cannabis, you could visit the Canadian Cannabis Learning Centre or you could have visited Hemp Alternatives to learn about the 50,000 uses of the plant. Needed some time to let your mind and body go? Follow your Bliss had this covered, as many people visited this booth for some Ganja Yoga. This business, which I’m told is one of a kind, mixes cannabis and yoga together. The two of them allow a person to get into a deeper med-ication and bring your mind into a relaxed state more quickly than regular yoga. Those in attendance could also get a massage from the Massage Lady booth.
For entertainment, those in attendance could hear the music being played in the theater. Throughout the week-end, you could hear live marijuana music being played by bands such as Northern Lights, The Breeze Way, The Killin Time Band, and Errol Blackwood, who has played with reggae great Bob Marley and performed many reg-gae tunes. The Andy Sagle Project, the artists behind the Treating Yourself theme song, not only appeared but also played their hit, “Treat Yourself.” Paul Bullock, a word artist from Texas, even made a trip north to inspire everyone with his poems, such as “Carpool Mom” and “Passing of the Joint.” Other performers, such as DJ Slim and The Breezeway, who both won global marijuana music awards, also performed and picked up their hard-ware. Joining this great musical line-up were gypsy reg-gae group Hannah’s Field and the band Lo–Fi.
Treating Yourself also features the work of three of the finest cannabis-related artists out there today. At the front of the Expo floor, Marco had a section set up for the Compassionate Cultivator (formerly the Happy Hippie), Joshua Boulet of the Green Reefer super hero fame. Beside them were radio artists such as 740 Zoomer and Classic Rock radio Q107, as the two radio stations did live remote broadcast from the Expo floor.
Friday’s attendance was up from last year’s, and many of the vendors I talked to all agreed that this year’s kick-off was busier than last year’s. The show opened up with Marco doing a welcoming speech in the theater. Following Marco, other speakers, such as Dr. Paul Hornby and Dr. Robert Melamede, took to the stage and talked about the science and the medical value behind cannabis. Also speaking on this day was the second per-son to legally be allowed to consume cannabis for med-ical purposes in the United States, before DJ Slim and the Andy Sagle Project got the place rocking with some mar-ijuana tunes.
Friday night brought everyone together, as the VIP din-ner was held for those who purchased a VIP pass. The buffet dinner featured food from several different nations from around the world, such as somosas from India, mini-burgers and hot dogs from North America, two dif-ferent kinds of chicken shish kabobs from an unknown land, as well as many, many other items, such as salads and desserts to keep everyone very happy. Once dinner was served, the entertainment for the night took to the stage. Everyone in attendance got to hear from some of the bands performing over the weekend, such as The Andy Sagle Project, DJ Slim, and Hannah’s Field.
Before the music started up, Treating Yourself publisher Marco Renda took to the stage and talked about every-thing from last year’s Expo to a call for unity among us in the movement. He talked about Marc Emery’s situation and how unjust it is to lock him up while many vendors sell seeds daily. He reminded everyone that a fractured cannabis community is not the way to end prohibition, but one that works together to reach the same goals is the way to end the war on cannabis.
Marco didn’t only speak those words, but he walked them as well. Throughout the Expo, activist group booths could be seen. Not every group could afford to purchase a booth, but Marco knew how important some of these groups are to the movement. Instead of telling them to go elsewhere, he reached out to some and offered them a booth to help them assist in their efforts. Included in these groups were some people he hasn’t always agreed with, but to Marco that was not important; the message you are sending is.
Saturday saw the largest crowd yet to appear at the Expo. The show opened up with Marco doing a speech to rally the troops to come together in order to defeat prohibition. From there, Mary-Lynn Mathre of Patients Out of Time and Michael Krawitz, a hemp activist and war veteran, took to the stage. The two of them talked about the organizations that they are involved with in the United States and what they are doing to improve the situation back home. Following them were musical artists Lo Fi and the Killin’ Time Band, joined by Bong Man during one of their songs. As a person that worked in a booth, I can say our booth was hopping most of the day. The only thing we lost track of was the time of the day, as it flew by us, leaving everyone exhausted by day’s end. Even though there were four of us in the booth, we were kept very busy throughout the day, as business went nonstop right up until closing.
With no events staged for Saturday night, many of those who were staying in the city took to the several events happening away from the Expo. This would include gath-erings at such places as Vapour Central and at the Underground Comedy Club, just two of the cannabis-friendly places that were open late this weekend to wel-come the cannabis lovers to the city.
While those attending the Expo spent their time doing other things, ten special judges were swept away to a pri-vate location to judge the seed company strains that had entered into the Cup competition. The companies repre-sented where not only from Canada but also from other locations from around the world. The group was split into two, with one side testing the six indica strains while other side looked after the eight sativas that had entered the contest. One by one, the strains were brought out. Each group had a chance to look at the samples as they were laid out on the table. This allowed a reporter from Buzz News and me to get some pictures of the samples, but it also allowed each participant a chance to see, touch, and smell the bud before grinding it. From there, each per-son got approximately a gram so samples could be rolled up and tested. This happened with every strain that was tested throughout the three hours that it took to complete everything.
Throughout the weekend, the VIP judges were kept busy judging 15 samples of the finest medicinal cannabis avail-able today. While many were asking how they could pos-sibly test all these strains over the weekend, it was some-thing that they all looked forward to. Besides the judging
duties they were to do, all VIPs also received a Treating Yourself carrying bag, a TY Expo event T-shirt, a three-day pass, Friday night gala dinner, and some speciality rolling papers. Then, when the judges were all done, they were asked to submit their testing forms back to the organizers, at which point they would receive even more gifts, such as 15 special-event CannaFresh storage jars and some 420 cleaning solution.
Sunday brought more entertainment as Errol Blackwood took to the stage. He sang some special reggae tunes that would make one believe that one was on a tropical island enjoying some fresh herb. Following him was The Breezeway. This band played some of their favorites as well as their award-winning tune, “The High Life.” Next up was a duo known as Hannah’s Field. The two of them play some pretty good tunes, such as “Puff Puff Pass,” which some people have labeled gypsy reggae. They have music that appears on Time4hemp, and it was recently announced that these two will be doing the theme song for the new Time4hemp video program.
The award show that wrapped up the day was about to change the lives of many people, including the musicians and an activist, as they were presented with awards for their hard work. One by one, the VIP judging results were named off as the winners from the private growers, com-passion clubs, and seed company categories made their way to the stage. One particular seed company, Medicinal Cannabis Genetics, walked away with half of the awards for this category, as they took first again this year in the indica category with Grape Escape while their Humber Valley Kush took third. Their Chemo Grapefruit took sec-ond in the sativa category, making it a very successful weekend for this very small but up-and-coming business. While it’s not part of the competition, I have noticed something about this year’s private grower winning selec-tion. This year, a new strain won that was grown with a new grower. There was a new a set of judges, but what didn’t change was the nutrient that the winner was grown with. This honor goes to the Dr. Paul Hornby-approved Medi One. The Global Marijuana Music awards were also presented, and some of the bands present went home with hardware for their musical talents.
For this writer, Sunday brought me acknowledgement of years of hard work, as I was presented with the first-ever Michelle Rainey Foundation Award. This award, picked this year by the foundation’s directors, is to be presented each year to a person who exemplifies what Michelle was doing as an activist. This person is a person like her, a per-son who worked day in and day out for nothing but the desire to educate people on the truth of the medicinal value of cannabis. Each year, this award will be presented to a person that educates selflessly day in and day out, and goes above the call of duty. While this description fits many of us, this year I am honored to have been picked by the foundation as the person who in the last year has exemplified what Michelle was doing while she was with us. Even in her passing, her education will continue, as many patient advocates will follow in her steps.
While the Expo is about cannabis and educating the pub-lic about its medicinal value, it’s also in a way a family reunion. Many people in this movement do not get to actually meet each other in person, and if they do, they are lucky if it’s more than once or twice in a lifetime. This Expo allows activists to come and join each other in soli-darity as one big happy family. It’s allowed people like Casper Leitch of Time4Hemp to meet the people he only interviews during his radio broadcast; it allowed vendors to meet and greet the businesses that they only deal with by phone; and most of all, it allows people from all over the world to come together in one big place and under one roof for one common cause, to educate the world about cannabis. I can hardly wait for next year’s reunion.
This will happen on the weekend of May 25-27, 2012, as the Third Annual Treating Yourself Expo returns to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to once again educate the masses. See you all next year.