By Al Graham

During the weekend of June 3-5, Treating Yourself Magazine held their 2nd Annual Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This building, which is located in the city’s downtown, features three large halls as well as several meeting rooms, and is perfect for an event that requires access for handicap people to come and go as they please. If you don’t drive or have a car to get there you’re in luck, as this venue has access to all of the public transportation within the city.

As with any event, you build off of the last show you did and you improve it. This year, event organizer Marco Renda left no doubt in anyone’s mind that was exactly what he did. This year, instead of having the show placed over three floors, he set up all of the event locations such as the theatre and the vapour lounge on one floor, and within the same hall. When it came to vendors, Marco worked the phones really hard and managed to fill every booth available. I understand he may have had to turn some vendors away, which should bode well for next year, as it signals more vendors want to get involved.

The vendors that were present came from both coasts of Canada and everywhere in between, as well from throughout the United States. Some of the vendors even crossed over the big pond, as some of the finest European cannabis companies were present. Arjan, Franco, and Olif were present from Greenhouse; Martin and Laos from ROOR bongs were back for a second year, and the owners of Paradise seeds were present once again. The show also had small and large growing companies setting up booths, as some local stores purchased space for the weekend. There was even a 53 ft. tractor trailer set up as a growing facility present for people to see. The people from Grow-Bot were present and they were providing event goers with tours of their massive 53 ft. long grow trailer.

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If you’re into glass, such as bongs and speciality pipes, there was no shortage of these for you to view or purchase. Many companies were present, but one of the places that had the best looking glass available was appropriately named One of a Kind Glass. This booth had about a half million dollars worth of some of the craziest and finest glass on display. For me and many others, seeing their display created a lot of buzz. This was proven by its third place showing in the Treating Yourself survey filled out by show goers to find the best booth.

The TY Expo isn’t about getting high; it is about educating the public about the medical value of cannabis. While attending the Expo you could hear from cannabis experts such as Dr. Robert Melamede, who teaches at the University of Colorado; Dr. Juan Sanchez-Romas, who is a Neurologist at Tampa Bay Hospital; or Patient out of Time co-founder, Mary Lynn Mathre. Irv Rosenthal, one of four remaining U.S. federally licensed patients, was present and he spoke about his journey to become legal medically in the United States.

For entertainment throughout the weekend, you could hear live marijuana music being played as bands such as Northern Lights, The Breeze Way, and Errol Blackwood (who has played with reggae great Bob Marley), all played on the theatre stage. The Andy Sagle Project, the artists behind the Treating Yourself theme song not only appeared but also played their hit “Treat Yourself.” Paul Bullock a word artist from Texas even made a trip north to inspire everyone with his award poems such as “Carpool Mom” and “Passing of the Joint.”

Friday’s attendance was up from last year’s, and many of the vendors I talked to all agreed that this year’s kick off was busier than last year’s. Friday night brought everyone together as the VIP dinner was held for those who purchased a VIP pass. The buffet dinner featured food from several different nations from around the world such as somasa from India, mini burgers and hot dogs from North America, two different kinds of chicken shisk-a-bobs from an unknown land, with many many other items such as salads and desserts to keep everyone very happy. Once dinner was served the entertainment for the night took to the stage. Everyone in attendance got to hear from some of the bands performing over the weekend, such as DJ Slim and Hannah’s Field.

Before the music started up Treating Yourself publisher Marco Renda took to the stage and talked about everything from last year’s expo to a call for unity amongst us in the movement. He talked about Marc Emery’s situation and how unjust it is to lock him up while many vendors still sell seeds daily. He reminded everyone that a fractured cannabis community is not the way to end prohibition, but one that works together to reach the same goals is the way to end the war on cannabis.

Marco didn’t only speak those words, but he walked them as well. Throughout the Expo activist group booths could be seen. Not every group could afford to purchase a booth, but Marco knew how important some of these groups are to the movement. Instead of telling them to go elsewhere, he reached out to some and offered them a booth to help them assist in their efforts. Included in these groups were some people he hasn’t always agreed with, but to Marco that was not important but the message you are sending is.

Saturday saw the largest crowd yet to appear at the Expo. As a person that worked in a booth, I can say our booth was hoping most of the day. The only thing we lost track of was the time of the day, as it flew by us leaving us exhausted by day’s end. Even though there were four of us in the booth, we were kept very busy throughout the day as business went nonstop right up until closing.

With no events staged for Saturday night, many of those who were staying in the city took to several events happening away from the Expo. This would include gatherings at such places as Vapour Central, and at the Under Ground Comedy Club—just two of the cannabis friendly places that were open late this weekend to welcome the cannabis lovers to the city.

Throughout the weekend the VIP judges were kept busy with the judging of all those samples, as fifteen of the finest medicinal cannabis was being tested by those who would benefit from it. While many were asking how they could possibly test all these strains over the weekend, it was something that they all looked forward to. Besides the judging duties, all VIPs also received a Treating Yourself carrying bag, a TY Expo event T-shirt, a three day pass, Friday night gala dinner, and some speciality rolling papers. When the judges were all done, they were asked to submit their testing forms back to the organizers, at which point they would receive even more gifts such as fifteen special event CannaFresh storage jars, and some 420 cleaning solution.

Sunday brought more entertainment to the stage, as well as the awards show. This show was about to change many peoples’ lives, from musicians to activists, as they were presented with awards for their hard work. One by one, the VIP judging results were named off as the winners from the private growers, compassion clubs, and seed company categories made their way to the stage. One particular seed company by the name of Medicinal Cannabis Genetics walked away with half of the awards for this category, as they took first again this year in the indica category with Grape Escape, while their Humber Valley Kush took third. Their Grapefruit Chemo took second in the sativa category, thus making it a very successful weekend for this very small but up and coming business. Some of the bands also went home with some hardware, as the Breezeway and DJ Slim were awarded for their musical talents.

For this writer, Sunday brought me acknowledgement of years of hard work, as I was presented with the first ever Michelle Rainey Foundation Award. This award, picked this year by the foundation’s directors, is to be presented each year to a person who exemplifies what Michelle was doing as an activist. This person is to be like her, a person who works day in and day out for nothing but the desire to educate people on the truth of the medicinal value of cannabis. Each year, this will be presented to a person that educates selflessly day in and day out and goes above the call of duty. While this description fits many of us, this year I am honoured to have been picked by the foundation as the person who, in the last year, has exemplified what Michelle was doing while she was with us. Even in her passing her education will continue.

See you all next year as the third annual Treating Yourself Expo returns to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre May 25-27, 2012.

Al Graham is the founder of PACE

<www.peopleadvocatingcannabiseducation.org> as well as being involved in a number of other projects