Cannabis entrepreneur inspired by his mother’s death to ease pain of others
Growing up as an angst-ridden teen is hard. Pressures and decisions can be overwhelming, parents are seemingly “against” everything, and it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Pressure can lead young adults to seek an “escape,” even if temporary, and look to “self-medicate” as a means to fill that void.
I say all this as someone, who, like most, suffered from a lot of the aforementioned, growing up.
Misdiagnosed from an early age with ADHD and anxiety, I spent a majority of my late teens and early adult years struggling to figure out who I was and what was wrong with me. Combine that with watching my mother be diagnosed and survive breast cancer at a young age without really talking to anyone about the effects it had on me, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the pressures of life as they hit me.
But fellow Thornhill native Lucas Margulis, founder of several businesses including High Bar, went through similar tragedies, and was able to come out a better person for it.
“Look, things could have gone really, really sideways in my late teens. My mother had just passed, I was a disaster, and I really didn’t know how to cope,” remembered Margulis. “I dabbled in some hard stuff, but ultimately found that cannabis was the only thing that really helped me cope with the depression and anxiety I was feeling.”
Looking for more constructive things to do with his time and energy on weekends that didn’t involve partying and doing drugs, Margulis found working in the entertainment business (weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc.) really helpful.
“These Saturday night events distracted me from bad influence, allowed me to use my energy for good, and still make some decent money,” continued Margulis. “However, still, when the night was done at 2 to 3am, I was having a hard time winding down and actually getting some rest.”
As thus, cannabis, as a medicine, returned to his routine.
“I remember, quite vividly, when my mom first started to fight breast cancer, a few of the doctors passed her hash pills on the side, because chemo (chemotherapy) was killing her appetite, and causing her a lot of pain. The pills seemed to help, and my interest in the plant took off from there, when I was about 18. She eventually lost her battle, but through it all I was reminded of how beneficial cannabis is, and decided that I would do my best to continuously advocate for it.”
Around this time, at the end of the long, energy-fuelled nights, Margulis decided to look into cannabis for himself as less of a recreational enjoyment, and more of a medication. Long before cannabis became medically legal, he found that at the end of one of those hectic nights it would help his mind and body wind-down and rest. “I started feeling like the best version of myself, and it was amazing.”
Being a natural entrepreneur, and after years of working for various entertainment companies, Margulis decided, in early 2014, to venture off on his own and launch PURE, which offered similar services, but would put him in creative and financial control.
“The concept was always to introduce experience bars that comfortably integrated cannabis into an event, helping to normalize it. After booking a few trials and proving it could be executed, people, companies, and brands started reaching out so that they, too, could offer a safe and legal alternative to alcohol at forthcoming events,” explained Margulis, who, himself, is not much of a drinker, and appreciated the kind of disruption this was going to do for events of all shapes and sizes.
Once navigating all the regulatory hurdles, High Bar went from concept to full-blown scalable pop-up business.
“The only way to (legally) serve cannabis is by obtaining legal amounts via the OCS (up to 30g) and not re-selling it,” explained Margulis. “Our team works closely with the event organizers, helps them decide what to buy and puts it together to further enhance the experience. Whether it be via our child safe, odourless, doob tubes that are ready to house our designer black and gold pre-roll papers, or our sensory bar that guests can see and explore all that makes the cannabis what it is, we really go all out to ensure the experience is both comfortable and memorable.”
“We were booked solid and partnering with caterers like Encore, and Toben, and Chef Jordan Wagman, to integrate offerings,” said Margulis. “We started integrating low dose (1mg) drinks and food, some which offered more rapid-onset effects, in an incredibly regulated and controlled environment; our clients loved it.”
It is said that positivity begets positivity and Margulis is the epitome of that. Life has thrown many curve balls at him, and he has conquered them all with humility, positivity, and grace.
“Look, it’s been incredibly hard being an event producer, albeit PURE or High Bar, during COVID. It literally halted our business and, thus, income. But I refuse to let any negativity derail my goals. As a father and husband, I have a duty to put them first and maintain a positive outlook on everything,” continued Margulis. “I look at cannabis as something incredibly beautiful, the way some people admire art or alcohol. I just want to share the love of the plant, while paying how it helped me navigate life forward.”
Corey Herscu is Director of Media Relations at VerbFactory, a marketing agency focused on technology and emerging vertical sectors. He previously ran RNMKR, a Toronto-based communications agency focused on cannabis, technology, and lifestyle.