Tania Cyalume and Brandy Zurborg are the brains behind Bloorcourt’s Queens of Cannabis, a dispensary that sells to approved medical marijuana patients. But it’s so much more than that – it’s also a healing centre.
A knowledgable, articulate couple who live and work together, Cyalume and Zurborg were patients with medical cannabis prescriptions before deciding to open a dispensary. Originally hoping to start a female-oriented head shop, they were inspired to go the dispensary route after a trip to Vancouver, where they experienced that city’s dispensary culture while shopping for woman-made wholesale pipes.
“I left my cozy job at the University of Toronto to do this,” says Cyalume. Zurborg, a former Canada Revenue Agency auditor, nods. “There was always a paycheque, it was very stable, but I just felt like I had to do this.”
Cyalume remembers her mom’s concerns: “You are going to get arrested! What are you guys thinking?”
The pair have kept a high profile as advocates through a tumultuous year for the city’s burgeoning marijuana industry. In May, Toronto police’s Project Claudia cracked down on shops. Queens of Cannabis wasn’t raided, but the city served their landlord with a warning letter.
The Queens of Cannabis maintain it’s their right to provide marijuana access to patients. They believe the municipal licensing order that says dispensaries should be located in industrial zones is unconstitutional because travel can be arduous for patients.
That’s part of the reason why the pair work to educate the public – especially disenfranchised people like those who rely on shelters – on how a marijuana prescription can help alleviate pain and enhance quality of life.
Besides offering DIY workshops on everything from how to make canna oil and cream to rolling joints, the queens hold free “ganja yoga” classes and host a “high tea” social once a month “where the community hangs out for two hours and socializes,” says Cyalume.
But what most sets their dispensary apart is its all-female, LGBTQ-friendly staff, whom women clients find welcoming.
“A lot of clients want an alternative to their dealer. You know, for women, meeting their dealer in a parking lot at night and going into his car – as a woman, that’s scary,” says Zurborg.
If your list of New Year’s resolutions includes that timeless chestnut to finally quit cigarette smoking, the queens can help. They’re making available an anti-anxiety CBD (cannabidiol) cigarette with a non-psychoactive chemical as an alternative to tobacco.
Cyalume explains, “You’re actually creating anxiety by putting nicotine, which is a stimulant, into your body. The THC level in the anti-anxiety CBD cigarette is so low that you can smoke it throughout the day. You literally don’t feel anything, but you’re not getting nicotine.”
Sound too good to be true? Science backs it up. Researchers at University College London published an article in March in the journal Addictive Behaviors that found CBD could significantly reduce the number of cigarettes consumed by smokers.
Says Cyalume: “Those who suffer from anxiety usually stay away from some of the more potent sativas, but this one is good for everybody. I’ve never had anyone come back and say ‘Oh, I couldn’t smoke that.’ Usually, people come back and say, ‘Oh, I want more of that!’”
“It’s the crowd-pleaser,” Zurborg says. The queens seem to be experts at pleasing a crowd themselves.
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