Store Spotlight: Katherine (Katy) Perry, Owner & Operator
While the name “Katy Perry” may be synonymous with music and popular culture to some, to Canada’s cannabis scene, there is only one Katy Perry, and she is the owner and operator of TOKE, as well as a long-time player in the Canadian cannabis space.
We caught up with Katy to hear about her journey into creating TOKE, and the path that led her here.
Katy’s Own Cannabis Journey
Like many people, Katy began experimenting with cannabis in high school, but at that point, it was recreational and a social activity among friends. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties when she suffered from a back injury that she became knowledgeable about the medical applications of cannabis. Since then, Katy has been a regular user of cannabis.
Turning Cannabis into a Career
“I just fell into it”, says Katy about beginning her career in cannabis. Both Katy and her husband never thought they’d actually be pursuing cannabis as a career. Both held stable and high-powered jobs within the city of Toronto, Katy being a paralegal and her husband being a restaurant operator, and neither ever thought that selling cannabis was a viable career option. But then things changed.
“My husband and I both used cannabis for medical purposes, and found that we were just spending too much money buying our medicine from others.” This is when the idea of becoming cannabis providers was born. “We bought a farm and began the journey of cultivating cannabis and educating others on the plant,” says Katy of her early cannabis work.
Katy wanted to be able to provide cannabis legally, and back in 2013, had an original vision of becoming a Licensed Producer to sell their cannabis on Canada’s legal cannabis market, which was then solely medicinal at the time. Unfortunately, timing, luck, and process didn’t line up, and the team weren’t able to secure a license but the dream didn’t burn out.
“We took matters into our own hands and opened a medical dispensary in downtown Toronto. It was called Canadian Green Dispensary and Holistic Services. This is probably when my journey as a cannabis activist really began,” says Katy.
Early Cannabis Dispensary Operations
Canadian Green Dispensary and Holistic Services identified as a medical cannabis dispensary, offering massage therapist services, yoga and pilates, as well as accessibly and compassionately priced cannabis.
“The most interesting part about operating a dispensary was witnessing who actually consumes cannabis. The answer really surprised me: everyone,” she describes, “From young twenty-somethings to seniors in the church choir, people from all backgrounds and demographics consume cannabis. I found the fact that cannabis has been stigmatized so long to be such a juxtaposition to the profile of the Canadian cannabis user.”
Katy describes the very different scene back then for cannabis dispensary operators: “At the time, because it was still free market and unregulated, there was a lot of advice given on how to consume, potential effects of consumption and what methods were best given a particular ailment.” As part of her role, Katy became extremely educated on how cannabis interacts with the body, the Endocannabinoid System, and affects different medical conditions and ailments. This was a knowledge and skill set that was invaluable to the cannabis industry.
Transitioning into Legal Cannabis is a Transition in Approach
Katy recognizes that now that she is a licensed recreational store under TOKE, their approach to providing cannabis must change in order to be compliant with The Cannabis Act. “Today, we can no long help patients by offering ‘medical’ consumption advice. We can only give generic answers about how someone might feel. It’s frustrating because we have all this knowledge and cannot share it in the Cannabis Retail Stores. But I am hoping that regulations and guidelines change and we will be able to help medical patients again.”
Honoring the Free Market in the Legal Era
Katy embraces the privilege of having a retail operator’s license by being fully compliant to The Cannabis Act and the regulations set forth by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. However, Katy brings a unique experience to her role as a store operator due to her involvement in what she deems the “free market”, or the unregulated market that existed across Canada prior to October 17, 2018.
“I think I really bring a depth of knowledge to the legal market. I have been a part of the cannabis legalization movement in Canada for over 10 years,” says Katy, “I know a lot about the cannabis plant, from cultivation to consumption, I’ve been teaching both consumers and cultivators how to grow and use cannabis for five years now. I hold weekly seminars at my grow store, Grow Op Hydroponics, helping to navigate the sometimes confusing world of cannabis.”
Katy’s Personal Philosophy on Cannabis
When selling cannabis to consumers, its important that an owner/operator of a Cannabis Retail Store has a personal philosophy on cannabis. “I think cannabis affects everyone differently. Some people need more, some people need less and everyone should just do what makes them feel good.”
Katy is passionate about changing the image of cannabis and cannabis consumers: “The one thing that really bothers me about consuming cannabis is the stigma around it. I think as long as you consume safely and responsibly it’s really not a big deal. In the words of Bob Dylan ‘be groovy or leave man’”.
Katy’s Vision for Cannabis’ Future
“I am really looking forward to participating in the legal cannabis market,” Katy says about the imminent opening of TOKE. “But seriously,” she adds, “I am so happy to be a part of legal cannabis in Canada.” Katy honours her role in the legal cannabis market and recognizes her license as a privilege to operate within her passions in a fully legal and regulated market.
“I’m stoked to be bringing the knowledge I have, and that my team has to the forefront of this new frontier,” Katy says as she looks towards the future of TOKE and the industry. Yet, Katy is so cognizant of honouring the path that cannabis took that led her to operating a legal cannabis store: “I really want to celebrate the past while embracing where cannabis is headed. I am honestly so excited to see where this industry is headed and I am so, so, SO glad that I get to be a part of it.”
Katy is literally living her dream. “I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to this career in cannabis, I can’t even imagine doing anything else,” she says with a smile.
When asked who inspires her, Katy takes a while to answer. “This is a really hard question for me to answer. I have been inspired by so many people throughout my life. Often times, it’s not a great historical figure or someone famous. I have found my greatest inspirations to be from ordinary people doing extra ordinary things. I have an incredible amount of respect for the ladies of cannabis – especially the black market girls.”
Katy wants to ensure that the women that she leaned on and formed her alliance of advocacy are honoured and remembered for their contributions to cannabis. “At a time when cannabis was so heavily stigmatized and very illegal, we saw so many strong inspirational women take leadership roles in the fight for cannabis legalization, definitely too many to list,” she says as she recalls her comradery in cannabis. “But, probably the most influential women in cannabis to me were Tracy Curley, Erin Goodwin, Amy (Brown) Anonymous, and Britney Guerra. These women stood on the front lines of the legalization battle. I looked up to these women, who like me, broke the law to change the law and were vocal and eloquent and inspired thousands of people around Ontario, including myself to do the same thing.”
What is Katy Consuming?
We couldn’t complete our profile on Katy without asking her what she likes to consume in terms of cannabis strains and products. “My favourite strain of cannabis is definitely Great White Shark by Greenhouse Seeds. I have been cultivating this particular strain for almost 10 years. It has both sativa and indica qualities, so it’s great for people who can’t choose. And in fact, we carried our own grown White Shark at our old dispensary – we even had it processed into shatter, wax, hash and RSO and made edibles from it. Everyone who knows me, knows I love it!”
Katy is very flexible in the way she consumes her cannabis, but will usually opt for an edible, or when she’d like to inhale her cannabis, she’ll grab a vape pen. However, like many in the cannabis industry she adds, “I’m a sucker for a joint or a blunt, too!”
We look forward to building TOKE under Katy’s leadership, and bringing her unique experience in the free market to this new legal era. Come into TOKE and visit Katy any day, as she looks so forward to meeting her customers and creating an outstanding cannabis experience.