There are two names to know in the Canadian cannabis industry and both end in Gertner. The first is Lorne Gertner, a man so far ahead of the curve that he started a publicly traded cannabis company when the first waves of the green rush were still beyond sight. The second is Alan Gertner, Lorn Gertner’s son, a former Google executive, and the artistic visionary pioneering the next iteration of cannabis business.
Both men are unrivaled in foresight, with a reputation for large-scale projects and sophisticated design. Both men are daringly creativity, a trait that allows them to build enterprises that were once dubbed impossible. In 2015, both men went into business together. Their ambition? To pave a path that allows consumers to fully integrate the plant into their lives.
Tokyo Smoke was born.
Alan Gertner is the co-founder of Tokyo Smoke, ( Photo by Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
In 2015, Canada’s cannabis landscape was questionable. A handful of licensed producers shipped medical cannabis to across the country, while rogue dispensaries supplied patients at the local level. Although Canadian cannabis policies slowly began to soften in 2001 when the first medical program was initiated, adult enthusiasts were simply out of luck.
Apart from preliminary promises for federal legalization made by newly elected Prime Minister Trudeau, cannabis was a risky bet. Fortunately, the Gertner’s are the adventurous type.
The brand kicked off with something that over two-thirds of Canadians consume every day, coffee. The idea was to create a brand so versatile that there was no need to rely on cannabis sales to get going. Rather than deal directly with the plant, Tokyo Smoke launched with a series of hybrid coffee shops. Cannabis might not have been legal, but coffee and carefully selected smoke accessories were fair game.
Sitting in a Tokyo Smoke coffee shop, you are encouraged to relish the simple experience of sipping a perfectly pulled shot of espresso. The idea of a cannabis-friendly cafe may bring up images of Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops, but Tokyo Smoke shops are a far cry from the dark, dive bar-like storefronts that have driven decades of tourism in the Netherlands.
Plus, at least for the time being, there is no smoking allowed in Tokyo Smoke shops—Canada’s rules.
Tokyo Smoke finally launched its flower line in 2019, and the same relaxed yet sophisticated brand ambiance radiates in every detail. Every cannabis strain, every package, and every piece of thoughtfully selected merchandise carries with it one vital message—don’t think too much, just step into the moment.
With their cannabis products, Tokyo Smoke once again departed from the conventional. Instead of following the traditional strain-based nomenclature, Tokyo Smoke flower is designed to fulfill consumer intentions. Consumers to pick the intent that best fits their present needs, allowing them to easily select their desired mood.
Just waking up? Rise with a hybrid. Headed out? Go with a sativa. Kicking back? Pause with an indica.
Photo by Connor Fyfe for Herb
In its essence, Tokyo Smoke is considered a lifestyle brand. In fact, the company self-identifies as a brand is rooted in “a culture that believes in the experience: a well-curated smoke session, one of intention or imagination, is always worth the trip.”
Yet, in some senses, the word lifestyle is too limiting. As a platform that caters entirely to an immersive experience, what is Tokyo Smoke, really?
In reality, what Tokyo Smoke has achieved is something entirely new—the brand offers a language, vision, and space for cannabis that blends naturally with daily living. In fact, in some ways, the Tokyo Smoke experience feels so comfortable that the brand seems like it has always existed, a seamless integration of cannabis into the everyday flow.
The intentional design behind the brand is partly due to the creative genius of Berkeley Poole, who previously served as art director to Barney’s New York, along with numerous other high-end fashion, design, and artistic publications.
In the first three years of business, Tokyo Smoke launched seven hybrid coffee shops across Canada, all equipped with tastefully selected smoke ware, clothing, and vaporization devices for retail sale. In 2018, the company received approval to open 10 cannabis stores in Manitoba, just after Tokyo Smoke was purchased by Canopy Growth, the largest grossing cannabis conglomerate in Canada, spreading the Tokyo Smoke way of life even farther.
The launch of Tokyo Smoke came at the perfect time. In a recent quarterly survey from Statistics Canada, 17.5 percent of adults of any age professed to enjoying the plant within the past three months.
When you take casual consumers into consideration, survey data suggests that over 40 percent of Canadians have enjoyed the herb at least once. In the United States, numbers are similar. By recent estimates, as many as 25 percent of American adults under the age of 29 regularly consume.
With backing from Canopy Growth, Tokyo Smoke is a cannabis brand destined to forever change the landscape of cannabis consumer experience.