Canada’s first non-profit cannabis product debuts in Manitoba this month, giving weed enthusiasts across Canada an actual reason to brag. TobaRolls by TobaGrown will be available in almost every retail pot shop across Manitoba beginning March 30th. Profits will first pay off TobaGrown’s legal bills as they fight the Progressive Conservative government’s ban on growing cannabis at home for recreational purposes. Once those bills are paid, profits will then flow to a variety of local and international charities.
The TobaGrown organisation, led by Jesse Lavoie, has been fighting the government of Manitoba for nearly two years for the right to grow four cannabis plants at home. This past year Lavoie’s team joined a legal challenge to Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis at home and also took on high profile lawyers like Kirk Tousaw to bolster their case. Lavoie realized merch sales and donations wouldn’t be enough to cover his legal costs anymore.
The idea to sell cannabis under a non-profit structure metastasized in Lavoie’s mind until it triggered him to reach out to CannMart — a former employer — to help him put the plan into action. First, though, he needed to come up with a name for the product. Inspiration struck Lavoie, as it is wont to do, while burning some hefty herb with his good friend and videographer Aaron DeSilva.
“I don’t know if you should have it tied to TobaGrown,” DeSilva said. “You don’t want to beat the Toba drum too much.”
“That’s all I want to do,” Lavoie said. “I just want to roll with it.” The lightbulb clicked on and the name ‘TobaRolls’ was born.
Although his original idea was to have all of the flower for the pre-rolls sourced from Manitoba growers (which Lavoie calls the ‘TobaSquad’), he didn’t want to play favourites by selecting one producer over the others. Instead, he’s saving the TobaSquad flower for a pre-rolled joint variety pack.
For the TobaRolls, Lavoie pitched a partnership to Safari Flower Co. The wholesaler, located in Fort Erie, Ontario won’t be recognizable to ordinary consumers but their flower has been used in premium concentrates like Fume’s Black Cherry Punch. Interestingly, Safari uses a natural gas generator on site to provide power and heat to their facility. They also recapture 85% of the water used in production.
From Safari’s perspective the TobaGrown deal was just another white-label pitch but after Lavoie visited them they fell in love with the cause.
After he returned home Safari followed up by offering steep discounts on future wholesale buys which will see even more of the TobaRolls’ revenue go toward non-profits. Right now Lavoie plans to donate the profits beyond his legal bills to five different charities. Harvest Manitoba, the Manitoba Metis Heritage Fund, Habitat for Humanity Manitoba, Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity and True North Aid, which helps northern Indigenous communities with logistics and health care.
When asked why growers like Safari or the TobaSquad would want to support home growing despite the fact it could lead to bottom line losses for them Lavoie states the obvious.
“They all seem pretty aligned on the notion that it’ll bring new revenue avenues for them like seeds, clones and so on,” Lavoie says. “People can make beer and wine but there’s still lineups outside the beer stores and liquor stores. So they’re not going to lose all their customers, they’re going to gain new ones. They’re going to be a part of change and be a part of Canada’s first not-for-profit cannabis brand.”
Although TobaRolls will initially only be available in Manitoba’s market Lavoie’s long-term goal is to have them available nationwide. As he expands to other provinces he’ll also add province-specific charities as recipients of his profits.
TobaRolls will retail for $19.99 and contain three joints with 0.5 grams of Safari’s Lemon Cream Cake in them. As revenue comes in Lavoie will post his legal bills and financial statements publicly to ensure accountability.
“We’re here for the long run,” Lavoie says. “What I am hoping though is the government drops the ban now. Not only can they stop wasting taxpayer dollars but they can also be benefitting these charities.”