Victoria's "Canna Mall" is a dream come true for marijuana shoppers. Canada's first marijuana mall features a bring-your-own-bud vape lounge, a dispensary offering craft-grown bud and an extract shop offering 60 different kinds of cannabis derivatives. And they're hoping to bring in more entrepreneurs to fill the mall's many stores.
“We are looking at taking over the whole building that will likely include a canna spa an infused restaurant [or] pizzeria,” Steve Omelus - one of the partners in the mall - told CHEK News.
But making money isn't the only thing they're interested in. These are entrepreneurs with a cause - normalizing marijuana. “We’re about bringing cannabis into the open market,” Nicole Little - operations manager for Skunk & Panda's Shatter Shack - told Katherine Dedyna of the Times Colonist.
Ashley Abraham - who runs the Green Ceiling vape lounge - told Dedyna that the mall is also about revitalizing the neighborhood by “drawing a crowd into the area that wasn’t there before [and attracting] people interested in arts and culture."
However, they plan to vet their clientele carefully. “We have on-site security and we are not about selling to children,” Little told the Times Colonist.
Mall is still a 'gray market' enterprise
Those measures could help convince local lawmakers to let the mall operate. Right now, all of these stores are illegal - federally, at least. Canadian law currently prohibits storefronts from selling cannabis or cannabis extracts for medicinal or recreational use. And that won't change until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is ready to introduce their legalization regime.
But the city of Victoria is taking Vancouver's approach of combating the growth of illegal marijuana businesses by licensing and regulating them instead of resorting to the sort of police raids that have been happening in Toronto recently. So the Canna Mall will be operating in a gray area - a particularly dark one because the owners aren't sure if their businesses will be allowed when regulations are introduced.
Until then, they've been given an unofficial green light to proceed with caution.
“Council has not favoured any enforcement until the city’s regime is constructed," Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told the Times Colonist. "This type of operation is being examined now as the city’s regulatory regime is nearing completion.”
City is working on a regulatory system
There will be a public hearing on regulations on September 8th, and City Hall is expected to work out the regulatory regime shortly afterward. One potential hitch for the Canna Mall is a proposed regulation that would prevent one marijuana store from operating within 200 meters of another.
“The idea of creating a buffer zone is to make sure that one neighbourhood doesn’t become the marijuana downtown of the city,” Victoria Councilman Jeremy Loveday told CHEK News.
That rule would make the marijuana shopping center illegal. So the Canna Mall might be a limited time offer depending on how those meetings go.
Meanwhile, the federal government plans to introduce a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use by spring 2017. By then, Vancouver, Victoria and other jurisdictions might have already implemented regulations that conflict with federal guidelines.