Pubdate: Tue, 03 May 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Adrian Chamberlain
Page: A1


Mayor Lisa Helps is unhappy with the opening of a cannabis lounge in
Victoria. However, its owner said the new business provides a
much-needed service.

Helps said she's "not OK" with The Green Ceiling, which provides a
public place for pot puffing. She said the city is devising
regulations that might put the kibosh on the enterprise, which opened
its doors on April 18.

The Green Ceiling is the first of its kind in the city, said Ashley
Abraham, the 28-year-old owner. While it doesn't sell cannabis, the
"vapour lounge" offers a coffee shop-style atmosphere for people
wanting to smoke weed publicly.

Patrons, who must be at least 19 years old, pay $5 an hour. In return,
they have access to marijuana-smoking accessories such as papers,
bongs and vapourizers. The Green Ceiling also offers board games and
plans to host live music, comedy and art shows.

Abraham applied for a business licence but is still awaiting word from
the city. She has met with a lawyer who said such a business is legal.
She said she also spoke with a Victoria police community resource
officer who told her she'd be breaking no laws by running a cannabis

Despite a growing public acceptance, Victoria police public affairs
officer Const. Matt Rutherford said being in possession of marijuana
is still a violation of Canadian law. However, the legality of running
a lounge such as The Green Ceiling - which doesn't sell cannabis - is
a grey area.

"If [Abraham] is not in possession, I don't know what she'd be charged
with," Rutherford said.

Helps said Abraham is in violation of a municipal bylaw if she
operates without a business licence. Meanwhile, city staff are
compiling a report on the regulation of marijuana-related businesses
in Victoria. It's expected to come before city council this month.

"My understanding is that one of the regulations is going to be no
consumption of cannabis on the spot. We don't have any regulations in
place. But as soon as we do, this business won't meet the guidelines,"
Helps said.

Abraham said she opened The Green Ceiling because there's a need in
Victoria for public cannabis-smoking spaces. Many people are not
permitted to smoke marijuana in their homes, particularly apartments
and condominiums. And she said smoking in parks or on the street is

"You're talking about someone who's using cannabis and now they're
forced into a dark alleyway like a criminal. We need to get away from
that," Abraham said.

"This [smoking lounge] is a lot more civilized. It allows people to
maintain their dignity."

Born and raised in Victoria, Abraham used to run a bed-and-breakfast
until she was injured in an automobile accident. She then got a job
with the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which provides cannabis
for people using it for medical reasons. Abraham said her background
in hospitality and cannabis makes her ideally suited to run The Green

The high-ceiling lounge has chandeliers, orange walls and tiled
floors. It's the former showroom for Gazzola Tile and Design on Quadra
Street, which still operates next door. Abraham rents the premises
from Gazzola. A sign on the wall forbids cigarettes and "blunt wraps"
(joints using tobacco leaf as a wrapper).

There are other marijuana lounges in Canada, such as Marc Emery's
Cannabis Culture in Vancouver. Abraham said her inspiration is
Toronto's long-running Hotbox Cafe. She has spoken with its owner, Abi
Roach, who advised her to be strong, avoid being a nuisance and keep
at it. "She said I should know what I'm doing is a needed service."

Last month, the federal government announced plans to legalize and
regulate marijuana in the spring of 2017. Helps said she and Nanaimo
Mayor Bill McKay have written to the prime minister seeking guidance
for municipal governments wanting to regulate marijuana use in the
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MAP posted-by: Matt