Ever since the overdue legalization of cannabis in Canada, cannabis dispensaries have become a ubiquitous and unignorable aspect of every neighbourhood in Toronto. Although each area of the city varies in its quirks, a commonality between them is their abundance of dispensaries. Not even the Danforth community—in all its unique and eclectic glory—is exempt from the influx of dispensaries Toronto is experiencing. If you’re walking along the Danforth, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll come across at least one, if not multiple.
With such a plenitude of dispensaries, it’s easy to assume that they’re all monotonous businesses that only sell cannabis. However, Green Merchant Cannabis Boutique, located at 294 Danforth Ave., shatters that assumption, and proves that a cannabis dispensary can be so much more than just a business. They can also become a space for a sense of community to grow and flourish as if it were a cannabis plant.
From the moment you walk into Green Merchant, the sweet relief of entering a safe space, both the comforting sense of familiarity and the feeling that you belong, wash over you. Within seconds, you’ll come face to face with a Pride flag hanging on the wall and a friendly budtender waiting behind a red velvet rope to check your ID. Anyone who is 19 years of age or older can then enter the store and experience everything it has to offer. From high-quality cannabis products to various types of events to a backyard patio where community members can hang out and safely consume cannabis, Green Merchant has something for everyone on the Danforth to enjoy.
The interior design of Green Merchant finds its inspiration in nature and the community it serves. The boutique is beautifully decorated, including accent chairs and a plant wall, complimented by a neon sign that reads, “Have a Green Day.” The boutique is also decorated with various pieces of art—paintings, prints, and earrings— on their walls, as they offer local artists free real estate to display and sell their work. Only at Green Merchant do you have the opportunity to purchase a pre-roll infused with THC concentrate and a painting of a purple dragon bleeding out of its fang-filled jaw in the same transaction.
Furthermore, all the cannabis products they have available are carefully curated and displayed in glass cases. They are not hidden away or dematerialized on a television screen menu like they are at other cannabis dispensaries. Green Merchant wants their customers to know what is available and what the packaging says. This way, community members can comfortably make informed decisions regarding responsible consumption. As well, Green Merchant is always open to community suggestions about which products should be carried in-store.
We really focus on bringing people together and putting an end to the stigmatization of cannabis.
Following their mission statement to provide the best cannabis retail experience in the country, Green Merchant exerts a passionate effort to create a safe space for everyone on the Danforth. No matter who you are, where you come from, or your experience with cannabis, you are welcome at Green Merchant. “The Danforth is such an amazing, diverse community,” says Sam McDonald, one of Green Merchant’s expert budtenders who has been working in the cannabis industry for over a year. “Our space is a safe, inclusive, and accessible one so as to fully encapsulate that. We really focus on bringing people together and putting an end to the stigmatization of cannabis.” McDonald explains that, “to this day, even in such a great place like the Danforth, people feel judged for doing something as simple and harmless as smoking a joint while walking down the street. It’s important for us to be that safe space where people can come and consume cannabis products […] without any worry of judgement.”
One of the ways this business fosters healthy connections through cannabis is by hosting events that cater to different interests on a regular basis. All community members are welcome to attend, try some cannabis products, and socialize with others. Even if you choose not to consume cannabis, you’re still welcome to participate in their events. Some of the past events they have hosted include drag queen performances, RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties, movie nights, video game tournaments, recycling programs, “high” exercise classes, and backyard music jams. These events are not only enjoyable and educational, they also actively foster connections between community members of various backgrounds.
McDonald’s favourite event that Green Merchant hosts—and one that she highly recommends checking out—is the Puff Puff Pride event. Last year’s Puff Puff Pride saw two iconic Toronto drag queens, Luna Dubois and Sapphire Woods, and a fabulous queer DJ, Sophie Jones, perform on their backyard patio in celebration of Pride Month. “To have members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, their allies, and cannabis enthusiasts alike from the Danforth gather in our local shop with love and pride was phenomenal and we can’t wait to do it again,” says McDonald.
Even on the days when Green Merchant isn’t hosting an event, everyone is still welcome to enjoy their exceptional space. “Our backyard patio is a special feature of our boutique and is the place to be during the warmer months,” McDonald says. “Everyone is welcome on our patio and it’s a safe space to be yourself, consume cannabis products, and do whatever it is you want to do. Whether you want to relax, socialize, read, write, [or] work, our backyard patio is available to you.” McDonald’s recommendation in the summer months is to purchase a cold, cannabis-infused beverage available in their store, and head out to the patio to enjoy the company of other community members.
There’s an authentic sense of admiration for the Danforth community in everything Green Merchant does, and that same sentiment is reciprocated by its residents. “The people of the Danforth have welcomed our store into their community with open arms, and it’s amazing to see so many supporting not only a local shop, but a balanced cannabis lifestyle,” McDonald concludes. Although it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and work to cultivate a sense of community on the Danforth, it’s a labour of love, and Green Merchant is honoured to have the opportunity.