The Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo is bigger and flashier than ever, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for the little local legends.
All this weekend, colourful, selfie-friendly marketing displays stand next to shiny industrial trimmers, lighting rigs and joint pre-rollers at the Vancouver Conference Centre, where eager entrepreneurs and well-heeled executives are shaking hands and talking shop.
And standing behind some fold-out tables between two palm plants, Wes Kuitenbrouwer and Moss Tomlinson of Puff, the popular head shop with four locations across Vancouver, are keeping busy selling bongs, pipes, grinders and high-tech gadgets.
When Kuitenbrouwer co-founded Puff in 1995, he carried only glass bongs and pipes. Tomlinson joined him at the turn of the millennium and in the years that followed they’ve constantly expanded and updated the business to keep up with cannabis consumers’ demands for more variety in how they can consume the drug.
“Now we sell everything,” Kuitenbrouwer said Friday at the expo, which runs until Sunday.
One table was piled with dried-herb vaporizers and concentrate vaporizer pens, which are popular among people looking for a quick, strong hit. (The cannabis concentrates loaded into the vaporizer pens won’t be legal until fall, though some connoisseurs either stocked up before legalization on Oct. 17 or have found illicit sources.)
“Everything’s supposed to be for dried herb so that’s what we’re selling more of,” Kuitenbrouwer said.
Tomlinson said Puff’s wholesale is expanding and they’ve also been selling more machinery and supplies to manufacture pipes and bongs.
“That’s been a really growing industry in B.C. and Canada,” he said.
Sales since legalization have increased but not gone stratospheric, Tomlinson said. It’s a little nerve-racking watching new players come into Puff’s market since legalization, he added.
“It’s more competitive, right?” Tomlinson said. “A lot of American and public companies have rolled in.”
But the two men said legalization has been mostly good to them, helping their clientele mature and bringing more seniors through Puff’s doors.
“Seeing it grow like this is kind of exciting,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t know I’d see this in my lifetime.”
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Kuitenbrouwer added. “I was pretty blown away when they started legalizing in America.”
Twenty-four years later, Kuitenbrouwer said he still delights in the work that surrounds him with good people. He hopes policy-makers never change that.
“But I don’t know,” he said.
“It’s weird. They might change the rules because we have the four shops and we don’t sell cannabis. Maybe they’ll be like, ‘You can’t sell pipes because you don’t sell cannabis.’ Anything could happen. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything in this industry.”
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