As I’m discovering the areas around me, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to write about and meet interesting people and discover interesting places. One of these places also gives me the opportunity to write something I don’t often get to do: Write a positive story about a cannabis related business.
Introducing Ganjahnista’s. (Warning: Their website sometimes has music)
Open while marijuana was still illegal recreationally, this cannabis lounge and snack bar was opened as a safe place to medicate, off the streets.
The owner, known to many as Ganjahnista, recognized that smoking outside is not a safe prospect for many people. Putting aside some of the less than enlightened attitudes about marijuana that can lead to harassment, standing for some can be an issue, as can anxiety about being in crowds, not to mention the trouble with not exposing passing children to smoke. Women smoking outside face street harassment, while people belonging to oppressed communities face harassment as well as increased scrutiny.
A vape lounge creates a safe place for people to take their medication, while also helping with the transition into legality.
In addition, the lounge offers comedy shows and other events in a location without alcohol, while also building community and acceptance.
While I was expecting to hear about run arounds from the city and harassment from various enforcement agencies, I was happy to be surprised. Not only was Bi-law on board, just making sure everything was up to date and even offering useful suggestions, the community itself has been hugely supportive as well.
The neighbouring park hosts a regular outreach program offering hot dinners and fruit to those who need them. Not only has the lounge helped out with collecting clothing donations, but they also let the volunteers store their tables there to save them having to cart them back and forth.
The lounge is recognized as having the best cup of coffee in the neighbourhood, regardless of whether you smoke or not.
All sorts of people make use of the lounge. Some take advantage of the event rentals to host events. A local podcast records their show here, and the owners are working on connecting with local artists to display their works here. They’ve been working towards being included as a part of Art Crawl to further integrate into the surrounding neighbourhood.
Not only are they an active part of their local community, but they are also active participants in H.O.P.E: The Hamilton Opioid Prevention Experiment. In light of the fact that cannabis has been shown to help with reducing the rates of opioid addiction, and that cannabis use can make symptoms of withdrawal and detox more tolerable.
From the description, this is a street-level project, that provides people most at risk for overdose with access to free or at cost cannabis in the hopes that it will reduce their use and hopefully help prevent overdose. A lot of the money for this project is organized on a donation basis with dispensaries and other organizations participating to help it reach as many vulnerable people as possible.
This ambitious and enterprising woman dreams of being THE cannabis hot spot in town, perhaps even in the whole region. To this end, she’s been working on putting together 420 friendly Bed and Breakfast in apartments upstairs, providing a sort of one stop shop for marijuana related tourism. Though the vape lounge itself does NOT sell cannabis, those with a medical prescription will find a good quality medical dispensary next door.
That’s actually how I first learned about this place. While I don’t live in Hamilton, it is the nearest place that has a medical dispensary, let alone one with reasonable prices and decent products. While I was at the dispensary, I suddenly had to use a restroom, and the rest is history.
The location itself is full of light, with neat tables and booths. There is an entertainment system and some couches available as well. There is equipment available for rental and sale. It’s a comfortable and relaxing spot.
So with a supportive city and community, what are the unique difficulties that face a business such as this?
Turns out, the answer is marketing. With Facebook and Facebook related businesses such as Instagram, advertisements that mention cannabis are taken down or severely restricted. More traditional outlets are similarly difficult to navigate and often the cost exceeds what is feasible for businesses still in their infancy.
Right now they manage through word of mouth, and the recording podcast, and similar methods of reaching out. I was happy to do my part to let people know about at least one place accessible for patients who need access to meds, but still want to go out from time to time. Not to mention to help promote this interesting city initiative and experiment.