University of Alberta student Simon Grigenas was recovering from a head injury when he was prescribed medical cannabis as a way to cope with his symptoms.
After testing out various ways of consuming marijuana, he felt like something was missing.
"I just found there was definitely lack of functionality and innovation in the cannabis industry," Grigenas told CBC's Radio Active, speaking about the ceramic bong market.
Glass bongs break easily, and most pipes get covered in residue after just a few uses and aren't easily washable.
That's where Grigenas' BRNT Designs comes in: to create ceramic bongs that are different than those on the market.
He, along with three other University of Alberta students, made the Hexagon — a bong he hopes will shake up the marijuana accessory business just in time for the recreational market, when marijuana becomes legal on July 1, 2018.
The bong is made of a ceramic-glass blend and is dishwasher and freezer safe. Other Canadian companies have created ceramic bongsbefore, but Grigenas said those ceramic bongs on the market are mainly created for aesthetics and not functionality.
Grigenas said his bong is made to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, so it can act as an accent piece on a coffee table — or even stick a flower in it.
The BRNT Designs team, from left to right: Simon Grigenas, Ty Thomsen, Andrew Feltham and Rahman Amlani. (Richard Siemens/University of Alberta)
"My mom has been using it as a flower vase," said Andrew Feltham, one of the co-creators of the bong. "It's got a modern, minimal feel."
The four students made the prototype and tested its durability by putting it through the dishwasher and throwing it off people's houses.
The bong also works while frozen. Freezing a bong is sometimes done to cool smoke, making it less harsh to inhale.
"It's a lot easier on your lungs," Feltham said. "You're not coughing up a lung after."
The four students poured all their spare time and money into the project.
"Any disposable income we had, we put into BRNT Designs," Grigenas said.
While balancing the business and schoolwork, they had the additional pressures of telling their parents they invested in a cannabis accessory product.
"Telling my parents, I was a little nervous because I had already given Simon money and I had already signed the partnership agreement," Feltham said. He decided to break the news to them one night over dinner.
"They took it really well, actually," Feltham said. "They were pretty proud. They've been telling all their friends."
The students used the crowdfunding route for an initial launch, and are expected to launch later this week. They've set a price for the bong at about $188 CAD after looking at prices of other bongs on the market.
And though it's not clear how well the bong will sell, Grigenas and his business partners are optimistic it'll be successful.
"We really wanted to help improve the lives of all medicinal users, and now recreational users," Grigenas said.