Cannabis companies are rolling out the green carpet in Toronto as they take advantage of the city’s turn in the limelight during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Several cannabis companies are opening pop-up shops or events during the two-week-long TIFF event, complete with celebrity DJs and chefs, aimed at raising awareness of their brands to the thousands of moviegoers and celebrities that descend on Toronto’s downtown core.

While TIFF draws more established mainstream brands – such as Visa, L’Oreal and Nespresso – looking to market their brands to consumers, the emergence of the cannabis industry during the film festival is notable with less than two months to go before Canada legalizes recreational marijuana use.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB.TO), one of the country’s biggest cannabis producers, has opened its “House of Aurora” in an old renovated bank a few blocks away from TIFF’s headquarters. The Edmonton-based company plans to host exclusive premiere parties, industry networking events, press junkets and other media activities during the first weekend of the festival.

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An Aurora advertisement near the TIFF Lightbox on Toronto's King Street West. (BNN Bloomberg)

Aurora, an official corporate partner of the festival, is also sponsoring a separate fundraising campaign with TIFF to promote gender parity in the film industry.

“Being part of Canada’s world-class film festival gives us the chance to raise brand awareness by fostering inclusion and diversity,” Heather MacGregor, spokesperson for Aurora, said in an emailed statement.

Aphria Inc. (APH.TO), another major marijuana producer, will host a mobile pop-up store for its Solei brand starting Friday around the corner from TIFF’s red carpet. The Leamington, Ont.-based company hopes it will educate and “demystify” marijuana ahead of legalization, according to Megan McCrae, the company’s head of marketing.

Unlike Aurora, Aphria is not an official TIFF partner and is hoping to catch some of the festival’s buzz to market its recreational brands, McCrae said.

“With six weeks before legalization, we were looking for different opportunity to get the message out there because there’s going to be a lot of consumers looking to face cannabis for the first time,” said McCrae in an interview with BNN Bloomberg. “TIFF was a great fit for that.”  

A few blocks away from the TIFF spotlight, COVE Cannabis, a brand owned by Toronto-based Cronos Group Inc. (CRON.TO), is hosting a chocolate pop-up shop during the festival. The company says it will offer VIP guests specialty coffee and the opportunity to try “handcrafted and artfully created chocolates” that mimic the company’s “terpene-rich cannabis strains” in a private club refitted to feel like you’re stepped into B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, even if the chocolate itself isn’t infused with pot.

“Building a brand is more than just putting packaging on what we have,” said Cronos Group’s CEO Mike Gorenstein in an interview with BNN Bloomberg. “It’s building a relationship with your customers and the tie-ins that cannabis has with the creative community.”

It’s also an opportunity for some companies that won’t be legally allowed to sell their products until October 2019 to get a foothold in the minds of curious cannabis users. Dosist, which makes a vape pen filled with cannabis oil, will open a 10-day-long pop-up shop a few blocks from the TIFF Lightbox area, and plans to host a private party where Drake-collaborator Majid Jordan will DJ and guests will rub elbows with festival celebrities, said CEO Gunner Winston in an interview.

But the company won’t be able to sell its product due to regulations tied to Bill C-45 that prohibits products such as vape pens from being legally sold until one year after recreational marijuana is legalized. That means that Dosist had to be more creative on how it markets its product compared to other cannabis producers that will be more active come this October, Winston said.

“It’s less of a party but more of a wellness-focused event with other brands,” Winston said.