Whether you’re ready or not, cannabis is coming to the neighbhourhood – and across Canada. As debate over the legalization of marijuana continues, there are plenty of companies waiting in the wings to get in on the ground floor of this rapidly evolving industry. And why not? Consumers will need help to make enlightened choices, and just figure out the green landscape.
One such company is the Toronto-based Hempster, which bills itself as a cannabis community and lifestyle brand with a mission to empower smart choices, and help Canadians find the legal cannabis products best suited to their needs.
Hempster’s is a relatively new company, co-founded by two friends, Dustin Laren, 28 and Roey Fishman, 27. One comes from real estate development and one’s a lawyer, and both come from solid economics backgrounds. The two friends both quickly realized there was a niche to fill in this burgeoning industry – and they knew they had better in fast before the landscape became too crowded.
“There’s a huge information gap for people who really don’t have any understanding of cannabis use,” said Laren. “We wanted to build a platform and create a consumer awareness in this cutting-edge industry of health and wellness.”
Fishman saw the need as a way to “reduce the stigma – plus, right now, it’s not regulated. There’s such a lack of understanding and knowledge. Education is the key.” The company’s role, added the two is “to promote smart cannabis choices.”
“we want to become the Lulumon of cannabis.”
That said, added Laren, “we want to become the Lulumon of cannabis.”
Their company is set up to help the average consumer navigate the enormous amount of information and help unravel some of the finer points of the drug, plus offers everything from news and education to products and strains – and even recipes.
One snowy night in Toronto recently, Hempster’s created a special Veteran Appreciation Dinner, to honour ten Canadian military veterans with a seven-course gourmet, cannabis-infused dinner, created by the well-respected Food Dudes catering company.
This was the first of its kind in Canadian history.
The veterans were headlined by retired Master Corporal Shamus O’Reilly, (of The Shamus O’Reilly Show,) and a recognized leader in the veteran community who has been spearheading the conversation around medical cannabis.
It was Hempster’s inaugural event and challenges included creating the meal based on the individual prescriptions of each vet – so each dish was totally separate from one person to the next. One person’s jalapeno corn muffun with maple dope butter was different from another’s. The menu was rich in flavour and substance – there was Magic Mushroom Cappuccino with pickled potato, portobello soil, mushroom hay and CBD herb oil. There was Stoned and Smoked Branzino, while another course included Mary Jane’s Pasta of bacon, San Marzano tomatoes, homemade ricotta and walnut pesto. Seven courses in all, all carefully and artfully curated. Dessert was a gorgeous Indica lava cake with coconut soil and liquid nitrogen ice cream.
“We had to consider the various content of each patient’s medicine in order to provide a balanced medical level to each dish,” said Ronnie Fishman, resident chef of Hempster’s, who was in charge of making sure the dishes had the correct infusion for each veteran. “I made the infusions the day before, and then worked with (the Food Dudes) to ensure each individual dish was carefully made.” The infusions were used in a variety of ways, including combining with oil or butter – the challenges being each marijuana strain has its own unique aroma that can either compliment – or overwhelm – the food.
Compounding matters even more was the fact that none of the chefs was allowed to taste the dishes to adjust for taste and seasoning. “We taste prior to infusing the dishes, but we cannot taste the medicated dish,” said Fishman.
“We are so thrilled to be part of this inaugural evening,” said Adrian Niman, founder and executive chef of The Food Dudes. “It was challenging and exhilarating, and helped pushed the boundaries of creativity. Plus, it’s helping start the dialogue on the proper use of cannabis in food. We are looking at the future of how cannabis cuisine will be handled.”
Ultimately, the evening was a celebration of the ten veterans, each who had given years of service to Canada, all suffering terribly from the battles they had encountered – and the relief they had finally found in medicinal cannabis.
“Being impressed with this dinner is an understatement,” said O’Reilly, who spent 18 years in the service, and came home to St. John’s a broken man suffering severe PTSD. “I am humbled by this event. It gives me an opportunity to say how cannabis changed my life, and the lives of my fellow veterans…this dinner raises awareness and will go a long way in erasing the stigma of medicinal cannabis use.”