How One of Toronto’s only Black Dispensary Owners Is Destigmatizing The “Stoner” Stereotype

Enzo de Siqueira Giroldo

Emmanuel Chinweokwu in front of his store, AlphaBud Cannabis. Courtesy of AlphaBud Cannabis/Google

Walking around Toronto, chances are that you’ll probably run into if not one, then multiple Cannabis dispensaries while on your way. The city is the largest cannabis market in Canada by far, as in February alone, it brought in CA$47.4million in revenue as per It’s an incredible amount compared to Montreal, which came in second place with CA$22.9million in the same period. 

The moral of the story is that with more than 300 stores in the city, the market in Toronto is wild and different than anywhere else.

Screenshot of the OCS store directory. When doing a search within 25km in Toronto, more than 300 stores can be found. Courtesy of OCS/Google

To stand out, Emmanuel Chinweokwu wanted to start by doing something that with more than 300 competitors, almost no one else does. On top of being one of the few Black dispensary owners in the city, he focused his store, AlphaBud Cannabis, on “killing the stigma” by presenting a friendly and discrete design to his store along with an educational approach to his customers. 

AlphaBud’s Terpene table. It displays different strains in a way that customers can read about them, pick them up or smell them. Photo by Enzo Giroldo

When customers walk into the store, instead of being presented with loud music and cannabis imagery stamped everywhere, they’re met with a very welcoming wooden design and an educational “terpene table”, keeping things on “the down-low” for customers that are curious about weed but are turned away by shops that “push” the stoner culture. The store also has an incredible mural painted by Toronto Black artist, Curtia Wright, which you can see at the back wall when getting cashed out. 

Mural painted by Curtia Wright inside AlphaBud Cannabis in Toronto. Photo by Enzo Giroldo


“If we’re gonna kill the stigma, let’s at least get something inviting to get people that are not familiar with Cannabis to walk into the store, and be like, Oh! I didn’t know this is what Cannabis was about!” 

Emmanuel Chinweokwu, 38. 

The other aspect of Emmanuel’s business is focused on justice for Cannabis. Now, when saying it like that, a lot of people might not know what he means. But the justice aspect refers to the fact that Canada has more than 100,000 people with criminal records for possession of Cannabis, and since legalization, less than 500 of them were given federal pardons according to the latest figures available on a CBC report

“It’s absolutely disgusting… To be quite honest, It makes my stomach turn” 

Emmanuel Chinweokwu, 38. 

Pushing discussions in his store about not only the injustice in the fact that these people can’t get in the industry, but also about how that’s affecting the market is what helps Emmanuel raise awareness of the problem, and what brings many shoppers back as well. One of Alphabud’s customers, Nicole Gutierrez, told S@Y News she likes buying the “Joints for Justice” at the shop because they’re the closest dispensary to her that “usually sold them”.

Screenshot of the Joints for Justice pre-rolls on the OCS website. Courtesy of OCS/Google

  The Joints for Justice are a Jack Herer pre-roll pack by Royal City Cannabis, which donate $1 of every one of their sold pre-rolls towards Cannabis Amnesty, the largest organization in the country working for expungement of Canadian Cannabis records.

“It’s great because I come into the store and I have educational conversations, listen to great music, and on top of that I’m helping fight injustices when I buy my weed” 

Nicole Gutierrez, 21. 

At the end of the day, Emmanuel’s plan with AlphaBud is quite remarkable compared to the rest of the market as he plans to bring in legacy people as stakeholders, but not directly as owners. This allows people who historically have participated in the business to help develop his brand, and profit off of the market, but not directly managing establishments as parameters would push them out due to past cannabis records. As time goes on, the market is expected to settle due to the high amount of stores that opened during the pandemic in Toronto. Emmanuel hopes to be able to expand with this opportunity instead of becoming one of the tens of dispensaries expected to close in the city through 2022

 “The market will dictate it, and it’s new, so it’s kind of wild right now… I’m scared, but so is everybody else”

Emmanuel Chinweokwu, 38. 

 To listen to Emmanuel’s podcast with S@Y News CLICK HERE.

To learn more about AlphaBud Cannabis or shop their products, visit

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