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‘Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store’ sparks Twitter backlash over name

A number of people have taken to Twitter to voice confusion, and to post GIFs of the classic Canadian television series The Littlest Hobo. (YouTube)

A Vancouver-based pub and restaurant business is defending its decision to call its cannabis retail venture “Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store,” following online backlash suggesting the name is insensitive.

The Donnelly Group plans to open eight stores under the name in British Columbia and one in Ontario in April, beginning with an Ottawa location on April 1, the first day of private retail sales in that province.

The application for the Ottawa store is undergoing public notice, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario website. The deadline for objections or submissions is Tuesday. A statement from the Donnelly Group on Monday did not confirm that municipal and provincial licenses have been secured for the planned B.C. locations.

Donnelly Group president and founder Jeff Donnelly wrote in the statement that “the ethos remains the same” as the company’s portfolio of trendy restaurants, pubs, barber shops and lounges in Vancouver and Toronto. Adding, “Be true to yourself and your neighbourhood; the people will follow.”

The ethos of the Hobo branding has become a subject of debate online. A number of people have taken to Twitter to voice confusion, and to post GIFs of the classic Canadian television series The Littlest Hobo, based on a fictional wandering German Shepherd who helps humans out of jams.

Cannabis lawyer Trina Fraser and cannabis consultant Deepak Anand tweeted about the proposal for Ottawa’s Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store on Feb. 26.

The debate resurfaced on Monday when Globe and Mail reporter Jameson Berkow asked his twitter following if anyone else was vaguely offended by the name choice. 

Donnelly Group vice-president of brand and culture Harrison Stoker defended the Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store name in a statement to Business in Vancouver on Monday.

“The term ‘hobo’ dates back to the 1920s, and describes a travelling worker. The word evokes a sense of wanderlust, and implies a passion for the journey over the actual, final destination. The team behind Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store fell in love with the idea of a journey, in the context of cannabis, having both literal and figurative meaning, ie: the journey one might embark on in their own mind while imbibing.

The Hobo branding has become a subject of debate online. (Provided)

“The Hobo logo is iconography based on the ‘Hobo Code,’ a communication system that was used by these travellers and symbolizes a ‘good road to follow.’ We hope that this conveys the inclusive message that all are welcome to come in and join us, and supports Hobo’s ‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’ tagline.”

Donnelly told Business in Vancouver  that some of his favourite hotels and magazines over the past years have had ‘hobo’ in their name, or in relation to it, and the company disagrees with the negative connotation. 

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