In the cold Canadian winter of 2010, a Toronto-based activist known as Amy Anonymous began handing out bags of milk, cookies, warm clothes and (for those who want it) cannabis, to help the city’s homeless. Nine years later, and with cannabis now legal in Canada, she’s still going at it.
The activist initiative was originally called “Milk & Cookies for the Homeless,” but it has now been redubbed “Milk & Cookies & Cannabis for the Less Fortunate.”
“It started in the winter of 2010,” Anonymous told Cannabis Now over the phone. “I saw this guy who I passed every day, and saw that his clothes were ripped. So I went to the store bought him a hat and gloves, and he was so grateful.”
Later, she said, “I brought some bud for him to smoke, and papers. He had a lighter.”
Anonymous was already working at a cannabis dispensary in the Toronto area, and was using the herb for pain relief following a car accident.
“So I understood how cannabis can help with pain, with mood elevation,” she says. She thought those were things that could help people who are “sitting on hard cold pavement all day.”
“I felt like I was giving him medicine,” she recalls. “The equivalent of a Tylenol — but natural, because that’s what I do.”
Donations From Across Canada
In the first winter of Milk & Cookies, Anonymous gave out 20 packages containing milk and cookies, hats and gloves — and, optionally, cannabis.
“It was all donated by the cannabis community following a social media campaign,” Anonymous says. “This really brought everyone together for the greater good — growers, sellers and buyers alike.”
The project, which has continued every holiday season since then, started before Canada adopted cannabis legalization nationwide. With legalization in effect, adults in Canada are allowed to gift up to 30 grams of cannabis to adults over 18.
This winter, Anonymous says she already has 70 bags prepared, with winter coats as well as gloves and the knitted caps that Canadians call a toque. Each bag also contains a personal-size carton of milk and a few cookies, which Anonymous makes herself.
“The first year it was chocolate chip, this year it’s sugar cookies,” she says. “Homemade cookies, made with love.”
The bags also include $10 in “preloaded food cards” redeemable in local fast-food outlets. With these, recipients can order a meal and nurse it, and be out of the cold for an hour or two. Anonymous says the restaurants have to honor the cards, and have not complained.
“Humans are humans, whether or not they have a roof to sleep under,” she says. “They can still enter and use your establishment.”
And finally, the bags contain cannabis — always dried flower. “We don’t give out edibles because of dosage issues,” Anonymous says. “This year, we had a donation of pre-rolls of CBD flower.”
Anonymous emphasizes: “We always ask if they consume cannabis, and if they are of legal age.”
Anonymous says she is building a relationship with some local shelters around Toronto. Some of these now allow Anonymous and her team to give out packages outside, even if cannabis is not allowed inside as a “narcotic.” In which case, she tells recipients not to consume on the premises. “We’re trying to help people, we’re not trying to start problems,” she says.
But mostly, she says, “We walk around the streets of Toronto, especially streets known to have people in need of assistance.” She adds, “It’s kind of sad that year after year, we see a lot of the same faces.”
Anonymous anticipates that the project will only grow. “We’re now receiving donations from around the country,” she says — again, mostly from folks in the cannabis community.
Fueled by soaring housing costs, Toronto is experiencing a homelessness crisis, with advocates estimating close to 10,000 people are sleeping on the streets on any given night, on top of many thousands more in the city’s overstretched shelters. The city’s winters are notoriously harsh. Late last January, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that four people had already lost their lives due to homelessness in the city that year. Little tent encampments are common under the minimal shelter of highway overpasses, and activists are demanding that Mayor John Tory declare a “homeless emergency.”
A Local Personality
As her website makes clear, Amy Anonymous has been a figure in the Toronto cannabis community for a long time.
“I worked in the cannabis industry back when it was illegal,” she states. “Cannabis got me off painkillers after my accident. I started baking with it, and made instructional videos of the preparation for a local website.”
She wore dark glasses and a floppy hat to hide her identity in the videos, and became known as Amy Anonymous.
Anonymous continues to have a strong online presence. She recently produced some videos for the humor site Swearnet, including trailers for what may become ongoing shows, entitled “Cannabis” and “High F*ckers.” The High F*ckers explore local cannabis culture in obsessively irreverent terms, for instance in their 420 Toronto Special.
But Anonymous does see a serious side to her work. In addition to the simple humanitarian aspect of what she does, she says she is also trying to send a message about cannabis and the people who use it.
“My goal has always been to make cannabis normal, to reduce the stigma,” Anonymous says. “I think we’re succeeding, and I love being a part of that.”
TELL US, what are you doing to give back this holiday season?