In a rare appearance since the death last year of frontman Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip rock group took over an organic farm in Creemore, Ontario, to officially unveil their newest venture: pot.
Last week, attendees of a two-day “glamping” getaway braved a heat wave to gather at the New Farm, which consists of 40 hectares of agriculture, wildlife, and walking trails, just a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Despite a feast of freshly picked vegetables, dill-dusted cocktails, weed smoked by a roaring bonfire, and a barn concert under the stars, the biggest draw was the promise of hanging with the Hip.
Band members Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, and Rob Baker didn’t just make an appearance, either. The three investors joined in the festivities alongside attendees, all playing a role in promoting their partners in their soon-to-be-legal weed-production company: Up Cannabis.
After a comprehensive cannabis introduction by two of the firm’s scientists, Sinclair took the microphone to unveil five strains poised to launch with legalization in October.
“Since we started working with these guys a few years ago, Up has been about the best,” he said to the crowd. The Hip officially announced their partnership with Newstrike, the publicly listed owner of Up Cannabis, last May.
Because direct celebrity endorsement of cannabis is illegal, Up’s products pay homage to the band by replacing the strains’ traditional nomenclature with hints at some of the Hip’s iconic tracks: Eldorado, Gems, 50 MC, Grace, and Morning Moon.
Strain by strain, Sinclair took guests through a blueprint of each of the musically themed flowers.
“It hits you really hard, but after the initial buzz goes and you get to the indica, you’re going to be glued to the couch playing guitar,” Sinclair said of Gems, the sativa-dominant hybrid named after the song “The Last of the Unplucked Gems” off the band’s 1991 album, Road Apples.
“When was the last time you actually listened to all four sides of Physical Graffiti? Because this is what you’re looking for,” he quipped.
The company’s product lineup covers the standard spectrum of cannabis offerings: indica, sativa, indica-dominant hybrid, sativa-dominant hybrid, and a cannabidiol-heavy strain.
Newstrike CEO Jay Wilgar told the Georgia Straight at the Creemore event that the company is focused on simplifying the diverse array of cannabis products available.
“When we started talking to people, what we started noticing, with the exception of B.C., was that most Canadians don’t know what they’re smoking or using, or very little about weed itself,” Wilgar said.
The company narrowed down 10 of the “most popular” North American phenotypes, ultimately settling on five that would best represent each type of strain.
“We decided to come up with, for example, the one best indica we believe will work in the marketplace and that people will understand…We’re simplifying the process with high-quality product.”
Up Cannabis currently has two grow sites: one in Brantford, Ontario, and a 506,000-square-foot facility nearby that holds about 160,000 plants. The five strains announced last week are just the company’s entry into the marketplace—it has more planned for the near future.
Wilgar said that much of Up Cannabis’s technique is reminiscent of B.C.’s grow style. Eldorado (its “gold standard” sativa), for example, comes from a Ghost Train Haze phenotype that boasts a high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) level, achieved by growing under indoor conditions they adopted from western growers.
During a heartfelt speech before a banquet-style dinner, Langlois reminded everyone that the date set for cannabis legalization will be the first anniversary of Downie’s death.
“He would have loved that,” he said, rousing diners to a toast.
Although a distribution deal has yet to be announced, Up Cannabis expects to have strains available in at least four provinces by October 17.