Pubdate: Thu, 30 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Lisa Wright
Page: B4


Host's company says event aims to add legitimacy to community

What do you do if you're a budding awards show trying to create a buzz
around Canada's $8.7-billion cannabis market?

First you weed out the best producers from the very large crop of
products out there. Then you book a swanky joint and roll out the red
carpet for business types looking to get in on the potential pot of
gold surrounding legalization next summer.

The CEO of Lift Co., the online marketplace for the medical marijuana
industry that is holding the event, says it was high time for a grass
gala to highlight the fourth annual Canadian Cannabis Awards -
previously held only online - in an effort to add some legitimacy to
the often stigmatized cannabis community.

"It's really going to be a mini Oscars" of pot, Matei Olaru said of
the awards show being held Thursday night at the historic Carlu at
College Park.

You know marijuana is going mainstream when the list of attendees who
reserved tables reads like a who's who of Canada's haze of law and
accounting firms, including Torys LLP, Dentons, Cassels Brock &
Blackwell LLP, Bennett Jones LLP, investment dealer Eight Capital and
accounting giants KPMG and MNP.

"These are recognizable names excited to be associated publicly with
the industry," Olaru said.

"The industry has matured enough and there are enough players, so it's
the right time for this," he added.

In fact, they will hand out a whopping 75 awards to producers and
numerous other players in the marijuana business during an evening of
cocktails and plenty of munchies over a sit-down dinner. The laughs
will officially be provided by famed comedian twins the Lucas Brothers
of 22 Jump Street and Netflix fame, who will be performing standup
before the after party.

Categories range from the traditional - employer of the year, startup
of the year, innovator of the year, deal of the year and even lifetime
achievement award - to the offbeat, including the best in show of vape
lounges, cannabis chefs, desktop and portable vaporizers, top testing
lab and best home growing box.

"It's a way to showcase those achievements," said Olaru, whose mission
is to demystify the continued confusion around the medical marijuana
market as it grows like a weed.

For instance, pot-smoking rapper Snoop Dogg recently partnered with
Canadian licensed producer Tweed, which is nominated in multiple categories.

Another sign that legalization is around the corner is Lift landing
official support this week from MADD Canada as it develops Canada's
first retail training certification program for front-line staff at
cannabis retailers who will have legal storefronts as of July 2018.

"Our experience with alcohol sales has shown that having comprehensive
training and responsible service guidelines for front-line staff is
crucial to reducing alcohol-related harms, including impaired
driving," says MADD Canada chief executive officer Andrew Murie.

"The same will be true of cannabis retail sales. MADD Canada is
pleased to partner with a leader like Lift and support this program,"
he said in a release.
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MAP posted-by: Matt