The way Alan Gertner’s shop is set up is de rigueur in Toronto right now. Handmade salvaged wood shelves fill the walls. They’re sparsely decked with a select mixture of local and novelty items: soaps, candles, lapel pins, retro tins, stationery. Along the middle of the space runs a slim bar where people can gather to sip coffee, socialize or do work.
Tokyo Smoke is also a cafe, and what sets it apart is that it’s all cannabis-themed. Alongside the kitschy tchotchkes you’ll find neon grinders, a selection of vapes, and coffee and baked treats.
The pastries are not cannabis-infused, though - yet. Gertner recently signed a licensing deal with Aphria, a Health Canada certified medical marijuana producer. This is the first deal of its kind in Canada. What it means is Tokyo Smoke will have its own brand of cannabis, and Aphria will be able to ship it to patients through the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
All of this happens as Ottawa faces mounting pressure to come up with some clear answers as to what legalization will look like. Though many people are confused and dispensary operators are conducting business under what they call a “legal gray zone,” police are very clear that dispensaries are still illegal. For that reason, Gertner will play by the rules and not sell pot in his shop until it’s fully legalized.
“Canada is going to be one of the first G-20 countries to have federally legal recreational cannabis. I’m really excited for that moment, and I think we can all agree that moment can’t come soon enough,” he says.
For now, his line includes four different products. The idea is that you can match them to your mood: there’s an energizing sativa called Go, a soothing indica called Relax, a hybrid called Balance, and an oil for treating pain called Relief.
Tokyo Smoke plans expansion to Seattle
artzenter / Shutterstock.com
Tokyo Smoke will expand with the laws, and is already setting its sights on new locations. Gertner speaks to Civilized over the phone from Seattle, where the next Tokyo Smoke location is planned to open.
Gertner sees in his work a real capacity to make people’s lives better, and he plans to expand to Seattle early next year. Ideally, he says, brands like his will continue to grow. In Washington, for example, there are hundreds of brands currently being sold in the cannabis market.
“Likely we’ll see more and more brands in Canada, which is a good thing. Brands will play a large part in normalization, in our emergence from prohibition.”
Alongside Tokyo Smoke’s impending physical storefront expansion, Gertner says they’re going to sell their branded strains in the U.S., which will make them the first internationally-shipped Canadian cannabis brand. (Canadian cannabis producers have already been allowed to do this, but specific brands are another story).
Gertner says the brand will continue to deepen its offerings insofar as the law allows as the company prepares for the fully legalized adult recreational market. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to the future.
“We have an incredible opportunity in the cannabis market to really change the world,” he says. “We have an existing market emerging in a legal way, and I can only dream of the potential we have to make an impact.”
Sarah Ratchford is a freelance writer based in Toronto, and a frequent contributor to Civilized.
Banner image: Alan Gertner, left, envisioned Tokyo Smoke as being a place where people could drink coffee, socialize or work.