What happens when you’re a savvy weed dealer living in Toronto, Ont., and dating a cop, only for the government to legalize cannabis and take your job away from you? Canadian Strain shows the rocky answer to this question.
Written and directed by Geordie Sabbagh, Canadian Strain is a delight. In true Canadian fashion, the film serves as a comedy sprinkled with the brutal realities of real life.
The story revolves around cannabis dealer Anne who is forced to make tough decisions when the Canadian government decides to legalize the substance. Not making enough money selling weed is hard enough let alone losing your customers, wooed away by “Tinder of weed” apps and Shoppers Drug Mart points programs — “Shoppers is carrying it. I have a points card.”
Unfortunately, Anne’s customers leave her in the dust, but, by the end of the film, they begin to suffer. Anne’s pharmaceutical-level knowledge of cannabis made her the perfect dealer, pairing her customers with the proper strain to curb their pain or increase their focus, or as Anne puts it, “I’m like a good tailor […] I cut to fit.”
The movie is a truly Canadian — and Ontarian — take on the legalization of weed. The film includes comedic news reel-esque moments to explain the creation of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Beer Store, followed by the film’s humorous take on the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation by naming the government-run pot shops in the film the Cannabis Distribution and Control Board of Ontario, or CDCBO.
The humour comes from the blatant exposure of how hilarious the bureaucratization of cannabis in Canada has become. It’s best put by Anne’s grandmother, who says “the government finally did it, they managed to take the fun out of legal weed.”
Needing the money, Anne joins “the enemy,” and ends up having to work in an overly-conservative blue dress shirt and tie, grinding it out at the CDCBO alongside enthusiastic bureaucrat Judy.
However, making friends with Judy is the best thing to happen to Anne.
In fact, Judy — played by actress Naomi Snieckus of Mr. D fame — is the highlight of the movie. Snieckus’s comedic timing is perfect from the moment she enters the film, with Anne pleading her case to work for the CDCBO to Judy in an empty room.
When the film gets slow, which happens on occasion, scenes with Snieckus bring the humour and pace back to the screen. It is also a true touch of comedic gold that Judy plays the unlikely hero by the film’s end, Snieckus exiting the screen with the same comedic vigour with which she entered.
The film is at its best when it focuses on the strange reworkings of Canadian law and order.
By beginning the film with a brief mid-20th century news reel about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and its job to stop illegal substances from getting into the hands of Canadians, Sabbagh perfectly juxtaposes the turn of events where the government’s weed dealers are now being protected by the same system that oppressed them, as long as the proper paperwork is filed to become a “legitimate” dealer.
It also highlights the bureaucratization of recreational substances and how restrictive our law-abiding forms of consumption really are.
Each member of the cast is perfectly suited to their role in the film and leaves an eerie realty to their lines and the roles they play. Notably, Jess Salgueiro gives a stellar performance as the frustrated Anne, and Canadian screen darling Colin Mochrie is a delight in his heartwarming and heart-wrenching role as Jack, Anne’s father.
For those looking for a laugh or for a not-so-fictional dose of the current Canadian cannabis climate, this film is a must-see and will, at the very least, leave you entertained with its witty one-liners.
Canadian Strain is now available to watch on digital and video on demand services.