Pubdate: Wed, 14 Dec 2016
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network
Author: Valerie Fortney
Page: A7


A decade ago, Vlassis Douvis's storefront window was plastered with

"The T-shirts weren't for sale," the Calgary entrepreneur says with a
laugh. "It was to hide what was really going on inside."

These days, Douvis isn't doing much hiding. It's pretty clear, in
fact, what kind of business he operates. At his three Hemp Roots
stores in the city, marijuana leaves are painted on the windows and
the only thing blocking the view inside is Christmas tinsel.

"Things have really changed," says Douvis. "Hardly anyone makes a big
deal anymore about head shops."

Things are likely to change even more for Douvis and other pot
advocates, if the federal government implements the recommendations of
a task force assigned to review Canada's laws and regulations around

Under the proposed Cannabis Control Act, the 80 recommendations
released Tuesday include allowing for storefront and mail-order sales
of recreational marijuana, along with personal growing limits of four
plants per person for individual use. It also includes a long list of
safeguards, such as not allowing anyone under the age of 18 to
purchase pot, bans on advertising, developing an appropriate roadside
drug-screening device and further study to determine the links between
THC levels and motor-vehicle collisions.

The recommendations are in line with one of Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau's main promises in the 2015 federal election, in which he
declared his party's intention to legalize the use and sale of
recreational pot.

In major Canadian cities such as Calgary, head shops - the slang term
for those selling such paraphernalia as bongs and other accessories
for pot consumption - have been around for nearly 50 years. Longtime
locals will remember the head shops that used to dot Stephen Avenue
Walk, with names such as Boodlum and Tropicana. It's long been a
tenuous existence, with sporadic attempts to shut them down by police
and politicians alike.

In recent times, though, they've been growing like weeds, pun
intended. That was partly thanks to a combination of changing societal
views and a rather unenforceable law, Section 462.2 of the Criminal
Code to be precise, that states it is illegal to import, export,
manufacture or sell instruments or literature for illicit drug use.

"It wasn't that long ago they came in labelled as flower vases,"
Douvis says of his bongs and other devices, which can range in price
from $40 to upwards of $5,000 (that's for what he calls a glass "work
of art.") "We used to call our products 'pot pourri,' because you
couldn't say what they were actually for."

His customers, he notes, come from all walks of life. "You have to
have money to buy some of the glass," he says, noting he won't sell to
anyone under the age of 18. "I see more and more baby boomers all the

After immigrating to Canada from Greece in the 1970s, he decided to go
into the head shop business because it was something he knew well.
"Really, do you have to ask?" he says with a laugh when queried on his
own connection to the "combustibles" - a long-used term by head shop
staff to refer to marijuana. "For me, it was a case of doing what you
love and the money will follow. I have a licence to use it for
medicinal purposes, so I can say that."

Douvis, who is grooming his daughter, Angelina, to take over the
family business one day, hopes to expand his business to include the
selling of those combustibles along with the accessories. "I'm taking
a wait-and-see attitude first," says the 60-yearold businessman. "I
don't want to make a misstep, I'm too old to go to jail."

Still, he thinks it's about time for a new approach. "We in the
cannabis community have been fighting for legalization for 50 years,"
says Douvis. "Today, I believe the majority of people agree."
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