Those bloodshot eyes you're certain to see at Toronto Film Festival premieres might not all be the result of all-night movie bidding wars. The smell of weed wafting down King and Queen streets is another whiff of life in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Canada after the new leader promised to legalize cannabis following the election less than a year ago. With legislation to legalize pot expected in spring 2017, medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up all over Toronto. "[Legalization] is just around the corner, and we can almost smell it," says Canadian filmmaker Ezra Soiferman, who also is an artist-in-residence for slick Canadian online medical marijuana startup Tweed Inc.
Technically, you still must have a doctor's prescription to buy weed, but in reality that's not always needed. Of course, if you're only at the festival for a few days, you won't have time to legally access cannabis via a prescription from a doctor. Not to worry: Since the dispensaries largely are unregulated, all you have to do is pop into one of the many new Toronto medical marijuana outlets, which are happy to oblige since they operate in a legal gray area. With a valid I.D., you walk in and ask for some pot, even if you're from out of town. "As long as you're 19 or over, you can buy whatever you'd like at some of these places," says Soiferman.
Toronto's cannabis bars sell varied strains at prices that range from $9 to $15 a gram. There are an estimated 100 "medical" dispensaries in downtown Toronto alone, each staking out neighborhood storefronts to get a slice of the burgeoning recreational weed bonanza.
The city's marijuana dispensaries do not resemble your average "head shop." Enter Cannabis Culture on trendy Queen Street West, for instance, and you won't find Bob Marley posters, giant bongs or skull-shaped pot pipes. Instead, you'll encounter a comfortable, tastefully furnished waiting room occupied by an affable manager who sits behind a desk. Once he calmly waves you into the backroom, you'll discover polite, well-groomed staff (or "budtenders") quietly filling orders as customers peruse clear-glass jars filled with various strains of weed with such names as Pink Kush, Blue Crush, Special K and Seedman's Haze.
And if you don't have time to visit a dispensary, you can have pot delivered via online sites including Tweed, Medical Marijuana Services and Green Doctors Network. You'll need a prescription, but have no fear: In Canada, you can get a doctor's "consultation" from your hotel room - via Skype. Once approved, you'll have a stash discreetly delivered via courier to the front desk, maybe as fast as you can order delivery pizza.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.