Article by High! Canada
Peter – you work with dozens and dozens of cannabis-based companies on a daily basis – tell us – did you ever think you would be doing what you are currently doing for a living?
Honestly… not even in my wildest dreams. Having spent my teenage years as a recreational cannabis user, I often look back to when I was in high school and my friends and I would wander off school property to smoke. Our principal caught wind of our little ritual and actually camped out on the roof with a camera to catch us in the act.
One by one, we were interrogated and vehemently denied the allegations passionately and with disgust that they would make such wild accusations. And then he broke out the photos…
Parents were called, lectures were given, and guidance counselors told us that our cannabis use would make us lazy and uncoordinated, and that our futures as upstanding members of society hung in the balance. We were each assigned to write an essay on why cannabis is bad for you, which ironically, was the first I’d learnt of its medical benefits. Being the shit disturber that I was, and armed with all this newfound knowledge, I chose to submit an essay on the benefits of cannabis use and when it didn’t quite meet the minimum page requirement, I simply listed off several successful cannabis users. It’s always been my hope that I’ll run into that principal again, just to tell him “a toad a so”.
Tell us about how you got into cannabis and the cannabis community?
Friends of mine over the years have had varying enterprises within the cannabis industry, ranging from street dealers to dispensary owners , but everything really started coming together while living on rural Vancouver Island. I lived in a small log cabin on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, which was on the property of a large-scale MMAR grower who taught me a lot and really introduced me to his world.
At the time, I had a career in retail management at a leading telecom retailer and was quite successful in my role. Each day I would come home from work, more demoralized than the last, and although I’d always prided myself in the customer service provided by myself and my teams, the work simply wasn’t satisfying. I knew I wasn’t doing good in the world and no amount of climbing the corporate ladder was going to change that. I needed to make a change.
As I assume is common practice when planning a major break from your career path – I hit Google, Kijiji, Craigslist and Indeed in the hope that I could find a role that would ignite my passion. I started applying for any job that might get me out of my funk, and received job offers for roles as varied as an undercover animal abuse investigator, to a professional cuddler, but it just wasn’t cutting it. Defeated on a cold winter morning, I sat in my little cabin, which was heated by a wood stove burning nothing but the stalks of cannabis plants, drinking coffee which was made from water boiled on that stove and smoking a bowl which was picked right off one of those very plants, it hit me. The cannabis industry was something I was truly passionate about, and the work I’d be doing could truly change the lives of patients across the country. I took online courses, I networked, I asked stupid questions and then I asked more stupid questions. I chatted with every person who would hear me and slowly developed an understanding of how I could put my skills to use. Within a couple months, I had hundreds of bookmarks, dozens of contacts and I was firing on all cylinders to find my place.
Throughout my research, Lift and Lift News in particular were providing me with so much valuable information and had such an inviting brand, I knew I’d found my next employer (even if they still had no idea who I was, and had no job openings available). What started with me volunteering as a community moderator, quickly evolved into a sales role and my experience with customer service was immediately put to good use. I was then provided with a blank floor plan and told that we’d be creating a trade show from scratch…
Peter – You are back in Toronto for an even bigger, even better Lift Expo and there is an incredible buzz circulating about this event. Can you bring us through the evolution of the Lift Expo event in Toronto and tell us a bit about what to expect this year?
The Lift Expo started from pretty humble beginnings. Before it was even a glimmer in our founder’s eye, Lift was putting on smaller scale forums in both Toronto and Vancouver. These forums were simply a handful of exhibitors and panel discussions, with the goal of informing the public and facilitating dialogue about the future of the cannabis industry. After a number of successful forums, by the end of 2015 it was clear that Canadians were craving more. It had been years since the last successful cannabis trade show in Canada, and Lift was in a unique position where it was able to bring together all facets of the cannabis community as an impartial third party. As the show began to materialize, we pored over every minute detail. We didn’t want to simply recreate other successful events, we wanted to create something new. We wanted to educate, excite and inform. We wanted to be as inclusive as possible and most importantly, we wanted to represent the cannabis industry in a way that would encourage the participation of onlookers, passersby and the cannacurious. We wanted to lip the perception of the modern cannabis user on its head. Although we learned a lot along the way, I think we found a winning formula. Going into this year, we’re now able to execute on our goals from last year even more effectively. If you attended previous Lift Expos, you’ll notice many of the same things that made the previous show great, only now there is so much more to get excited about.
Can you ill us in a little on what kind of planning goes on behind the scenes as you and your team get ready for – as many refer to it as… the cannabis event of the year?
The Lift Expo thrives on collaboration. Everything we’re able to accomplish is brought to you by the support and dedication of those participating in the show. The Lift team is so beyond grateful for every single collaborator that takes part and it’s that support that has got us to where we are today. We, of course, have meeting after meeting, and work long hours to accomplish crazy deadlines, but when push comes to shove, we have a passionate team and a sprawling network of supporters who are helping us bring it all together. It really is the community that has built the Lift Expo, and we’re always eager to receive feedback, collaboration ideas and support. In my eyes, Lift’s goal is to provide a canvas on which the community can paint its masterpiece.
I understand Lift has some big projects underway right now – the Lift Rewards program and the Many Faces of Cannabis social media initiative being the two that come to mind – what can you tell us about these programs?
Lift Rewards is the loyalty platform for the cannabis industry and the only legal one of its kind. Just by signing up as a member, you’ll receive exclusive perks like discounts at local businesses. My personal favorite is Float Toronto, which is offering $20 off your first float in a sensory deprivation tank! Beyond that, users are awarded Lift Points for a number of different contributions, be it leaving strain reviews on our site, answering surveys, entering contests and more. These points can be used to unlock new deals and experiences, discounts on your next vaporizer and can even be used towards your next cannabis purchase!
If I can throw in a shameless plug, feel free to hop over to lift.co/rewards to learn more. As for the Faces of Cannabis – Faces is really all about undoing decades of stigma. There is an amazing paradigm shift happening across the country, and more people are discovering the benefits of cannabis use every day. The goal of the Faces of Cannabis initiative is to get these stories in front of the public, to show existing users that they don’t need to hide, show prospective users that they’re not alone, and show the naysayers that they’re straight-up wrong. Leading up to the Lift Expo, we’ll be sharing the stories of a wide range of individuals from doctors to MMA fighters to kids and more. Want to get involved? All you need to do is post your selfie to the social media platform of your choice with the hashtag #facesofcannabis and share your experience as a cannabis user. Join us as we show the world that we’re so much more than a bunch of lazy stoners.
And finally – any advice to Lift Expo attendees on how to maximize their Lift Expo adventure this year?
Clear your whole weekend!! With so much to see and do, and only two days to get it all done, the Lift Expo is really your best opportunity of the year to experience all the industry has to offer and I don’t want you to miss a thing! Maybe you’re looking to get your start in the industry. We’ll be hosting a career fair where you can learn about the many different career paths and submit your resume, which will be given to dozens of prospective employers. There are also a plethora of amazing panels and discussions on the stage where people far more intelligent than I will educate you on things you didn’t even know you don’t know. There’ll also be live cooking, growing and extraction demonstrations. There’s even the TVape lounge, where patients can try all the leading brands of vaporizers. All that on top of the nearly 200 exhibitors showcasing their products, brands and doing contests, giveaways and promotions.