Witch Prophet Is a Canadian Cannabis Hero

"High-functioning stoner" Ayo Leilani explains how Canada's green rush doesn't benefit the people who advocated for legalization
Witch Prophet Is a Canadian Cannabis Hero
Photo: Brianna Roye
GTA-based Ethiopian/Eritrean songwriter Witch Prophet, (a.k.a. Ayo Leilani) knows a thing or two about cannabis — she even recently threw a weed-themed wedding. With her new album, DNA Activation, set to arrive on March 24 via Heart Lake Records, we spoke with the exploratory Ethio-jazz/R&B/hip-hop artist about her cannabis consumption and why she's the complete opposite of the "stoner" stereotype.

What do you smoke and how do you consume it?
I'm a flower girl through and through, sativa all the way! Indica is cool, but I'm an all-day kind of smoker so I'm not really trying to fall asleep. My favourite strains are Black Mamba and Red Congo; both are really high in THC, so a little goes a long way.

I'm a pro roller, seriously. Ask anyone who knows me. Twenty-plus years of practice can do that to ya. My go-to are RAW organic paper joints or hemp blunts if I'm feeling fancy.

I only eat edibles once in a while. 150 mg lollipops really help with body pains and are a godsend for cramps.

What do you like to do when you smoke?
I'm what people would call a "high-functioning stoner," a.k.a. I am almost always high, but am completely able to get shit done. I smoke while writing music, before (and after) performances, while applying for grants and funding, to relax/pump myself up, and to be completely honest, I'm smoking right now. Weed is a part of my everyday life. I'm the complete opposite of the outdated and biased "stoner" stereotype.

What do you think about the recent changes in cannabis culture?
At first, I was really excited about legalization and the move toward normalization. I mean, sure, I'm grateful for the ability to carry, travel throughout Canada, smoke outside (in Ontario) without fear of getting harassed and arrested, but when I started to realize who exactly was benefiting from this "green rush," it became clear that it wasn't the POC who actually advocated for and risked their lives to provide this medicinal plant for consumption. Instead, it's lead by the government, corporations and ex-police who overcharge, don't actually understand the culture, don't respect the plant and have no care for the amount of garbage their unnecessary over-packaging is creating.

I'm still waiting for the records of those charged with possession to be completely cleared (without them having to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops).

Where in your city is great for cannabis?
If you're in Toronto, hanging out in Kensington Market is always a give-in.

Blaze a spliff at Hotbox's back patio, then head out to get a jerk chicken sandwich from Rasta Pasta. Take in the musical sounds coming from the stores next door while people-watching (you're sure to bump into someone you know). After that, walk down the block and get lost in the sea of vintage stores. Shopping always makes the time go by so fast! A quick pick-me-up latte and chocolate rugelach from Moonbean Cafe, and a nice little spliff on the sidewalk (because you can!). Repeat.

Are there hidden (or not-so-hidden) cannabis references in your songs?
As Witch Prophet I have no references to weed in my music, but I can assure you I am high while writing all my songs.

My other band/project Above Top Secret (an electro/dub/hop/grunge fusion) has many songs talking about cannabis. The most popular and in-your-face would be our song "Ghost" with lyrics like, "I'mma disappear on you n**ga's like Ganga on a smoker, I'm ghost."

Who are your Canadian cannabis heroes?
My cannabis hero is my neighbourhood weedman. Through rain, sleet, snow and hail — my weedman is always there. Support Black-owned small businesses.