Patrick Vrolyk, also known as Red Beard, repairs the antler on a bong he had previously made. He is one of the few licensed marijuana accessories distributors in the area. Jordyn Thomson/Western News.

Going legal: Meet Red Beard, your bong maker

Patrick Vrolyk is an Okanagan-based glassblower who specializes in handmade pipes and bongs

Cannabis producers and distributors weren’t the only business affected by legalization.

Patrick Vrolyk, otherwise known as Red Beard, is an Okanagan-based glassblower and owns one of the only licensed cannabis accessories business in the area.

He said he “made sure he got his licensing in order” to legitimize his business on Oct. 17 when recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada.

“I have hadn’t had a ‘real’ day job in about 15 years, I’ve been supporting myself (and my sons) with glassblowing,” said Vrolyk. “It turned from a hobby to a business.”

This means that once dispensaries in the area are able to open, he can sell his merchandise through these shops.

Related: Legal pot shops in the South Okanagan still months in the future

Vrolyk often jokes with his customers that he “started making a few flower vases, but when you pop a hole in it, now it’s a bong and you get twice as much for it.”

In actuality, he and a friend picked up the craft in 1996 after experiencing the Grateful Dead tour.

“I just happened to be gifted in that nature I guess, I picked it up right away,” said Vrolyk. “My first pieces were sellable and looked good. Other people learned slower and have many pieces that they can’t sell.”

Now he crafts handmade pipes and bongs, some so intricate and elaborate they can sell for upwards of $1,000.

Vrolyk said glass is often a preferred option for cannabis users in terms of safety and efficiency.

“Papers can be grown with pesticides, plus you’re smoking the paper so that’s another substance that’s (entering your lungs) along with the cannabis,” said Vrolyk. “With glass, it is inert so you’re only smoking what’s in the bowl of the glass.”

Related: Don’t be dazed and confused about cannabis legalization

Vrolyk operates his business, Red Beard Glass, from a home studio with his own kiln. He anticipates he’ll only get more busy now that recreational cannabis is legalized since people that “waited for (pot) to be legal” may look to current users and experiment for themselves.

“There’s only going to be more exposure … (these people) might go try it,” said Vrolyk.

“It’s not against the law now and people are realizing it’s not the devil lettuce as they were taught.”

He does believe there is still work to be done though to erase the stigma around cannabis use that has long been in place.

“It will be a very slow thing to change I think.

It’s just the nature of society, I think stigma exists against so many things,” said Vrolyk. “But it must change. We just have to re-educate the public.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter

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