Social stigma of smoking inspires new ‘delivery’ methods

Canadian entrepreneurs are busy developing a wide range of new ways to use recreational cannabis in a socially acceptable way — without having to roll or smoke a joint.

Cocktails, beer, coffee and tea — along with specially designed vape devices — are in the works. None will create the notorious stench or clouds of smoke associated with marijuana and they will offer non-smokers more choices, beyond the edible cannabis products already on the market.

“When I got into this industry in 2014, there was this question of: ‘What is the form of how people will be using marijuana?’ ” says Dooma Wendschuh, co-founder of Belleville, Ont.-based Province Brands, which is developing a beer brewed from cannabis. “Is it going to be a vaporizer pen? Is it going to be a gum or a gummy bear? No one knew.”

What industry players did know, however, was that decades of warnings about the health risks of cigarettes have pushed smoking out of fashion.

“No one does it anymore,” Wendschuh says. “Smoking has lost, and beverages are how we like to become altered.”

Dooma Wendschuh shows off a small sample of the imperial pilsener that his company, Province Brands, is developing. The beer is brewed with cannabis instead of barley. (CBC)

Statistics Canada’s 2016 Community Health Survey showed that 17 per cent of Canadians smoke, while close to 77 per cent of Canadians drink alcohol.

“I think that the protection that comes through government channels, with more rigorous product testing, will give people comfort that they can try the product and not worry about where it came from and whether it’s legal or even tested,” says Lee.

Government regulations will also apply to labelling cannabis beverages with information about the potency of the drinks, likely to be measured in milligrams of THC per serving.

Cannabis on your way to work?

But if smoking is viewed as distinctly anti-social — requiring users to leave friends behind as they duck outside to indulge their habit in an alleyway — vaping is not exactly welcome either.

Cannabis entrepreneurs Dustin and Corey Koffler of Toronto believe they have a solution. The brothers — grandsons of Shoppers Drug Mart founder Murray Koffler — have designed a line of cannabis vape devices that they describe as “discreet.”

“A lot of people aren’t comfortable going out and vaping in public,” says Dustin Koffler, showing off a sleek, pen-shaped device. “This is for somebody who doesn’t want other people to know they’re vaping cannabis oil. It allows them to have a device that fits in the palm of their hand, that doesn’t emit odour or a big cloud.”

Dustin Koffler and his brother are founders of Green Tank Technologies, a company that is manufacturing devices specially designed to let consumers vape cannabis oil. (CBC)

Most discreet is their GT Commuter model — so named because a user could theoretically enjoy some cannabis on their morning commute to work on a bus or train. “We don’t recommend that’s how you use it,” says Koffler, “but it’s possible.”

Not on shelves until 2019

Then there is the gadget designed for women. It looks like a stylish gold makeup case, but actually contains — and charges — two slim cannabis vape devices.

“If your kids happen to look into your purse, they’d never know what this was,” says Koffler.

The health implications of drinking or vaping cannabis won’t be known for years — the products aren’t even on the market yet — and the entrepreneurs who spoke to CBC News acknowledge that.

“I will never ever stand in front of you and say marijuana is good for you,” says Wendschuh, “because unless you have a particular illness that marijuana can treat, I don’t believe it is good for you. But I believe it’s a lot less harmful for you than alcohol.”

Interested consumers will have to wait for their cannabis cocktail or beer for now, though.

The drug is being legalized in stages and regular weed along with oil will get the OK first. The recreational market is expected to open late this summer. Specialty products won’t be allowed on shelves until sometime in 2019 at the earliest.