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‘Canna Mall’ aims to be hub of Victoria’s marijuana culture

What’s touted as a one-stop shopping centre for all your weed needs is getting up and running at 1627 Quadra St.
A cyclist rides by a large billboard on the Pat Bay Highway advertising the "Canna Mall," a collection of businesses targeting marijuana-buying customers.

What’s touted as a one-stop shopping centre for all your weed needs is getting up and running at 1627 Quadra St.

The new “high” class collection of businesses called the Canna Mall has recently taken over the other side of Gazzola Tile and Design building, already occupied at 1625 Quadra by the Green Ceiling vapour lounge for bring-your-own bud at $5 an hour.

It stocks everything from $10 slices of potent banana bread to pocket vapourizers and butane hash oil by the gram under carefully tended counters.

To get the word out on everything from pot-infused erotic oil to hydroponic and extraction equipment yet to come, a huge digital sign advertising the “euphoric” Canna Mall faces southbound traffic on the Patricia Bay Highway.

The casino-style billboard blares its message in stark contrast to the subdued exterior of the fashionable Gazzola building, where a tiny sign reading “Welcome to the Canna Mall” is taped to the glass and wooden front doors.

It’s possibly the first marijuana mall in North America, but definitely “the first in Canada,” said Nicole Little, operations manager for Skunk & Panda’s Shatter Shack, which showcases 60 cannabis-derived extracts for sale. Little said Monday that she is hopeful that the marijuana mall will give Victoria city officials some kind of assurance of a business model selling top-quality concentrated marijuana extracts tested to be free of residual heavy metals for instance.

“We have on-site security and we are not about selling to children,” Little stressed. “We’re about bringing cannabis into the open market.”

The mall promotes craft cannabis, along the lines of craft beer, she said, doing away with people needing to use drug dealers or dicey products, she said. “We’re trying to promote cannabis as part of our day to day,” she added.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday doesn’t take issue with it being the first such mall in Canada, because “marijuana is still an illegal substance,” adding he was taken aback by the digital billboard advertising pot but not much else to do with dispensaries and marijuana-related businesses popping up in Victoria.

Mayor Lisa Helps said in May that she was “not OK” with the Green Ceiling, which opened April 18 as the city’s first coffee house for pot, with patrons over 19 paying $5 an hour at the business.

As for the Canna Mall: “Council has not favoured any enforcement until the city’s regime is constructed. This type of operation is being examined now as the city’s regulatory regime is nearing completion,” said Helps in an email to the Times Colonist.

Victoria will hold a public hearing on new marijuana dispensary regulations on Sept. 8, after which council and city staff will seek compliance with the new regime, she added.

None of the new businesses is licensed.

“It’s quite a big building and they’re looking to fill the entire building,” said Jenny Farkas, president of the North Park Neighbourhood Association. She heard about it from a concerned resident, but said the association is not going to comment on the new mall until the city’s regulations have been passed.

“I’m hoping all the dispensaries will come into compliance with our bylaw without a struggle,” Loveday said.

Ashley Abraham, who runs the Green Ceiling, said the incoming bud-related businesses along with the nearby Vinyl Envy record store are adding a more positive vibe to the block, “drawing a crowd into the area that wasn’t there before, people interested in arts and culture. It’s just starting to get out that we’re there.”

Abraham said she has tried to apply for a business licence though the city doesn’t have a category, but she says what her clientele do is “not a police-able action.” Victoria police could not be reached for comment.

Ottawa plans to legalize and regulate marijuana in the spring of 2017.