OUR POT SHOPS ARE A BUDDING, BOOMING, BRISK BUSINESS
For better or worse, the retail sector of Vancouver's marijuana industry is
What began as a couple of shops on Hastings Street last year has expanded
to at least four shops on Commercial Drive that profit in the legal limbo
left by police and city council, who won't meet to discuss the issue until
later this month.
At Hastings and Cambie, staff at the B.C. Marijuana Party bookstore, which
openly sells seeds but not smokable stuff, told American tourists Monday to
go to Commercial Drive to buy over-the-counter B.C. bud.
"People come here all the time asking, 'Where can we get some weed?' " says
Kaara Heywood, who describes herself as one of BCMP's 30 paid employees.
"We've been sending people to Commercial Drive constantly. [The shops] are
new on The Drive. But the culture has always been there. It's just becoming
more storefront, less underground, more in-your-face."
On Commercial, The Spirit Within shop temporarily closed Monday, the day
The Vancouver Sun reported it was openly selling pot across the street from
the now-famous Da Kine retail marijuana outlet.
But customers, including some who appeared to be under 19, were rolling
into Da Kine Monday afternoon. Many customers buy $10-a-gram marijuana at
Da Kine, and then inhale it for free at Melting Point, which openly peddles
drug-related products such as $800 "volcanos," used for inhaling through a
bag, and $600 "bubble bags" used for refining hashish.
"I got flow," boasts proprietor Marc Richardson, claiming he's paying
enough taxes to fund the salaries of four police officers.
He says he left the hemp-growing business in Manitoba to procure marijuana
for the Compassion Club on Commercial before opening Melting Point,
"Canada's only inhalation station," a year and a half ago. Since then, he
claims, he's sold about $100,000 worth of volcanos. "This business is
liquid cash all the time. There's no depression, no downturn."
Richardson estimates that Da Kine, meanwhile, is making $100,000 a month,
and generating another $100,000 for about 50 nearby stores and food joints.
Heywood says shop owners are "a huge family organization" hoping to expand
their businesses -- and cons
ciousness -- to free-spirited neighbourhoods in
the West End, Yaletown, Kitsilano and throughout the city, which some
American tourists call "Vansterdam, British Colombia."
"If Da Kine is allowed to stay, then of course other businesses will have
their own storefronts," says Heywood. "It will start a domino effect."
But some residents around Commercial Drive complain that "Vansterdam
tourists" from the suburbs are parking in their spots, driving while
impaired and threatening the safety of their children.
"We have a whole lot of high people with car keys in their hands," says
Eileen Mosca, a mural painter and president of the Grandview Woodland
Community Policing Centre. "Their only parking is on our streets."
She suspects pot businesses are moving away from Hastings, which is "a tad
too seedy," to more upmarket Commercial. "They want to make this a
mainstream business, so they're moving it."
Mosca says she's not on an anti-marijuana crusade, but against governance
by "nudge, nudge, wink, wink."
"The level of naivete among city officials is just incredible. Our city
government has decided that the laws of Canada don't apply to the Republic
She says potential drug businesses should at least have to get the consent
of neighbourhood residents and business owners before they open their doors.
"It's very hard to get a cold beer and wine store in Vancouver," she says,
pointing to Avanti Pub's unsuccessful bid to open an off-sales store on
Commercial Drive after residents and shop owners complained. "It appears
that anyone can open a marijuana retail [outlet] in the city without
residents having anything to say about it."
She says the media attention around Da Kine is "the most brilliant for-free
advertising gimmick a business could do."
But Richardson says the pot shops are a bonus to the Drive. "We're not an
organized syndicate that needs to launder funds. Just check my income-tax
Pointing to displays of artistic glass bongs priced up to $2,625, he says
he's comforted to see passing police cars. "They're protecting my investments."