Photo courtesy of  Times Colonist

The Great Canadian Canna Mall in Victoria, BC, was the first of its kind in Canada (and possibly North America) when it opened back in April 2016- a mall dedicated to craft cannabis, conceived as a boutique one-stop shop for everything pot.

Unfortunately, the Canna Mall was recently denied a business license by the City of Victoria, forcing the Canna Mall into a fight for its existence. The founders, Scotty and Ashley, are preparing to speak at City Hall to plead their case later today at 6:30PM.

Scotty, who focused on the boutique-aspect of the Canna Mall, and Ashley , who owns and operates the Green Ceiling cannabis lounge, spoke on why they were denied a business license, the city’s ban on consumption and cannabis lounges, and what they hope to see when legalization finally happens.

Cannabis Life Network: What was your vision for the Great Canadian Canna Mall when it opened back in April 2016?

Our goal was to create a cannabis community in Victoria by providing local and sustainable craft cannabis products for recreational users at a creative boutique-style cannabis enterprise. As far as we know, we’re the first mall in North America focused entirely on cannabis.

How does City Hall denying the Canna Mall a business license affect you and your customers?

Scotty: It affects many people. If the city continues down this path, 5 businesses will be forced to shut down and 25 people will lose their jobs.

The situation is hard because we’re here trying to make a difference and help people, and we want to give people access.

The report from the city said we were 400 m away from the dispensaries that were licensed and zoned already, and that’s why we were denied.

Basically it seems like they want to close down these private businesses so they can come in and control the supply. They’re taking out a lot of businesses and jobs and giving patients fewer options and places to go.

Ashley: Truthfully, it is our intention that The Green Ceiling will be here providing the service that we have always provided.

The Green Ceiling had its business license denied over a year ago and we are still here doing what we do- which is providing a safe and dignified place for adult cannabis users to consume and socialize.

How has the community in Victoria responded and what are your thoughts on the city’s ban on consumption?

Scotty: The community has responded quite nicely because they know they have a place they can rely on with so much choice and variety, and they know they have a safe place to consume.

We wanted to give people a safe place to consume because people can’t do that in their house or apartments when they’re renting because they’d get kicked out on the street.

Ashley: I think the city is against consumption on site because they are hesitant to be the FIRST city in Canada to allow cannabis lounges and consumption spaces. Our city council is already under fire for being one of the most liberal councils this sleepy little city has ever had. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that they are simply trying to appease the conservative mob.

After our business license was denied we were issued a cease and desist letter threatening bylaw action if we continued providing our service. Since that day we have received 6x$500.00 tickets for allowing onsite consumption and 1x$1000.00 ticket for operating without a business license. 

Do you think the city’s position will change once cannabis is legalized in 2018?

Scotty: I’m not sure. It sounds like Trudeau wants to shut down any small mom-and-pop shops and have the big corporations come in and take control. That’s the vibe we’ve been getting, at least.

But if they’re going to go corporate and charge ridiculous amount of taxes, they should put that money to good use and invest in research and development. Corporations and Big Pharma aren’t the way to go and we want people to know that there are alternatives.

I want to see people who have been at the forefront creating these strains and fighting for cannabis, way before the LP’s came in, to get the shout-outs they deserve. Those are the people who created it and we wouldn’t be here right now without them. There are already LP’s selling “BC Bud” and they will ruin its good name! 

Ashley:  I absolutely hope it will change with legalization. Simply put, I think it would be irresponsible to provide a substance and disallow a dedicated space for adults to consume it.

Do you have any plans to expand the Canna Mall concept across Canada?

Scotty: Absolutely. We’d love to take it across Canada and give Canadians an opportunity to experience craft cannabis and see all the care that’s put into it.

What’s the best way for people to show support?

Scotty: There’s a Canna Mall Facebook page, and all of our stores have their own accounts as well, so please check out Skunk and Panda’s Shatter Shack, Green Ceiling, Euphoria Potions and Edibles, and Treehouse.

We also have in-store petitions that we’re bringing to city hall tomorrow to show them the community they would be harming.

We have hundreds of names so far, and anyone who can come in to show their support at 1625 Quadra St., that would be amazing.