Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Page: Front Page
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


It's been well over a year since Ashley Abraham began putting the
wheels in motion to open a marijuana lounge in Victoria.

The young entrepreneur had noticed a growing number of people were
unable to consume cannabis in their homes due to condo boards or
landlords, pushing them to use the drug elsewhere.

But now Abraham has found a space for pot lovers aged 19 and older to
bring their weed and socialize for a $5 fee. She didn't consult with
city officials about her business plans, but maintains she's not
breaking any laws.

Prior to opening The Green Ceiling on Quadra Street, Abraham met with
a constitutional lawyer and a police officer. Since then, she's
dropped off a business licence application to the city and isn't
worried the business will get shut down.

"I'd like to work with them (the city) and be a positive part of this
community. I feel like I'm putting something very positive forward
here," said Abraham.

"There is no law in Canada against the consumption of cannabis. That's
what I'm allowing to do here."

Victoria's Mayor Lisa Helps is troubled that some businesses are
opening and operating without a licence while the bulk of
entrepreneurs abide by the city's rules. When she ran for mayor, Helps
never thought she'd be in the business of asking staff to develop
regulations around marijuana.

Now the city is in the midst of developing a regulatory framework for
the more than 30 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Victoria.
The framework will come to council for consideration in early May. The
vapour lounge is the first Helps has heard of.

"This is not an issue that should be handled by the city, this is an
issue that should be handled by the federal government," said Helps,
adding the vapour lounge could be ordered to shut down if it's not in
compliance with city regulations.

"It's not legal to smoke cigarettes inside. If someone was in a store
and they lit up a cigarette, it's unthinkable."

Long-time marijuana advocate Ted Smith hopes to see more vapour
lounges pop up in Victoria and believes it could help drive tourism as
the federal government moves towards legalizing the drug.

Health Minister Jane Philpott recently announced Canada will introduce
legislation next spring to spark the process of legalizing and
regulating marijuana. The announcement came on the same day as dozens
of people gathered in Centennial Square for the annual 4-20 pot rally.

Typically the event is a protest, but the government's announcement
marked the end of a revolution for Smith. The former head of the
Victoria Cannabis Buyer's Club was hopeful one day the drug would be
legalized, but he wasn't sure if it would ever happen during his
lifetime. It's an idea he's still getting used to.

"It's a beautiful feeling to think that we're not going to be arrested
for simply smoking a joint. It's a dream come true," said Smith. "To
have this announcement made on April 20 is a day that I will never
forget. It's a turning point in history. This is phenomenal."

Smith will be keeping a close eye on what exactly the regulations will
entail. Fears are already brewing that the drug will be over
regulated, he said, making it hard for small scale producers to enter
the market. Some people are also worried medical marijuana
dispensaries could get shut down once the provincial government steps
in and decides where the drug will be made available.

Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, Smith plans to continue
celebrating 4-20, but he noted the event will likely be moved into a
more controlled environment.

"I'd like to have it at Royal Athletic Park where we could ID everyone
going in and have lots of vendors, booze and bands," he said. "It will
change from a protest to a celebration."  
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