‘Ottawa’ ‘Princess of pot’ Opens a Cannabis Culture Shop on Bank Street
Aylmer resident Shane Cantin was watching a livestream of Wednesday’s pro-pot rally on Parliament Hill when organizers said they would march down Bank Street to open a new marijuana dispensary.
Cantin, 19, grabbed his skateboard, hopped on a bus and was among the first customers through the doors at Cannabis Culture, Ottawa’s newest marijuana shop, on Bank Street near James.
“This is awesome,” he said, surveying the jars of dried weed in the large room painted multiple shades of green with cannabis leaf murals on the cement floor.
Cantin scooped up a gram of CaliKush Blast for $11 and sniffed the contents of a small jar of Icewreck, selling for $8 a gram.
Cantin, a clothing designer, says his daily pot smoking did not prevent him from finishing high school and college. He believes marijuana boosts his creativity and relieves stress. “We’re not hurting anyone. We’re here to smoke some weed and enjoy life, right?”
The Cannabis Culture chain is the creation of Marc and Jodie Emery, two of Canada’s best known crusaders for the legalization of marijuana.
About 20 Cannabis Culture stores have opened across Canada, although Jodie Emery says it’s difficult to keep a current count because of police raids.
Most of the stores are franchises, including the one in Ottawa. The Ottawa owners don’t want to be identified, said Emery, because they fear prosecution.
Unlike many of the hundreds of illegal marijuana dispensaries that have popped up across Canada, Cannabis Culture stores do not claim to sell only to medical patients. Sales are open to anyone over age 19.
About two dozen people were in line when the store opened around 1 p.m.
Customer Roxanne Cibien said she discovered the benefits of cannabis for her son, a brain cancer survivor who uses it to control headaches. Now she also uses cannabis-infused cream on her face and drops a cannabis oil capsule into her coffee or tea at night to help her sleep.
“I really believe in it,” said Cibien, who hopes to buy a Cannabis Culture franchise. “I’m not into the recreational. I’m more into the medical.”
Cibien says she doesn’t care if the dispensaries are illegal. “I’m ready to go to jail for this.”
So is Jodie Emery, who urged a dozen protesters on Parliament Hill earlier Wednesday to keep fighting for what she calls their “civil right” to use cannabis, “spiritually, medically or recreationally.”
“We’re sick and tired of living in fear!” she yelled as supporters chanted “Stop arresting our people” and “Marijuana doesn’t kill.”
The federal government has promised to introduce legislation this spring to legalize recreational marijuana.
Emery said she’s concerned government regulations will be too restrictive, and shut out both dispensaries like Cannabis Culture and small growers in favour of the large producers now licensed by Health Canada to grow and sell medical marijuana.
She also urged the government to immediately stop prosecuting people for possession of marijuana. Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record, lose their jobs or their right to the travel to the U.S. for smoking pot, she said, comparing drug laws to the Prohibition era when alcohol was outlawed.
Dispensaries are providing medicine for the sick and jobs for Canadians, she said.
In an interview, Emery reiterated her contention that cannabis is harmless, saying fast food and candy sold in corner stores is more dangerous.
When asked about research showing that cannabis can be harmful, especially for young people whose brains are still developing, she agreed it “might be for some people” but then added that “marijuana is one of the most benign substances on earth.”
Cannabis Culture hopes to open a couple outlets in Ottawa, said Emery. Her husband, Marc, has said his goal is to open 200 stores across the country this year.
Ottawa police have raided a dozen marijuana dispensaries since November, but some have reopened.