A fledgling marijuana dispensary and vapour lounge originally located within a few blocks of Nelson city hall has been evicted from two storefronts since its introduction to the community a few months ago.
Qunnabu Healing Society, run by director Kyle Lindroos, 24, was originally located on the bottom floor of the Front Street Emporium. But according to building manager Paula Snow, it only took eight days for problems to arise.
“They approached me to rent the big space that was available up front. They were up front about what they were doing, to a point, but they did not really say they were going to have people using substances in the space,” Snow told the Star.
And though Lindroos brought heavy-duty Canfilters into the space and attempted to comply with all requests, ultimately he was still asked to leave.
“I was fine with retail sales of pot-related items and selling the substance to people medically licensed to receive it, but they didn’t say anything about using it on site,” said Snow, noting that visitors often smoked from vapourizers.
According to Snow, the smell was oppressive and one tenant decided to move out. She said there were also complaints of people knocking on other doors and making a nuisance in the parking lot.
Once the police informed her that her insurance was in jeopardy, she made the decision to evict.
“It sounds to me like they’re too young and inexperienced to do what they’re doing in a way that doesn’t have serious side effects for the people around them,” she said.
Qunnabu then moved to a space above the Dollar Store, where their merchandise and equipment remains in limbo, as new landlord Armand Olender has already delivered a hand-written eviction notice.
LIKE ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Lindroos began using marijuana after a shoulder injury sustained during firefighting. He said cannabis helped him cope with the pain and get to sleep.
That kick-started a passion for the controversial plant, and two years ago he obtained a license to grow pot.
“It started out I was mostly selling brownies to dispensaries in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Then after my surgery I found out I could get my license.”
When Lindroos first moved to Nelson, he told the Star, he was forced to obtain his marijuana from dealers in Cottonwood Park. He said the selection was poor, the situations were uncomfortable, and he was tired of feeling like a criminal.
When he opened Qunnabu — a neo-Babylonian word for cannabis — he was initially in a business partnership with some local artists and businesspeople who planned to open a head shop called Nelson 420.
However, that idea fell through.
For the majority of the time they operated in the Front Street Emporium, the space was little more than an empty show room, a few couches and a small room from which Lindroos sold a variety of cannabis products.
“I don’t think they liked the progression,” said Lindroos, noting he operates differently than other marijuana-selling establishments in Nelson.
“I was offering extracts I made, and edibles, which is something the other clubs weren’t doing. And I was trying to create a space where people could comfortably hang out and have a smoke. I guess they didn’t like that.”
He was also hoping to introduce an art gallery to the space.
Lindroos said he has a passion for health care, as evidenced by his tattoo of ancient Egyptian alchemist god Thoth, who taught holistic healing among other things. In Lindroos’ tattoo, cannabis is being transformed into a droplet of gold.
“I’ve been traveling around Canada trying to educate people about extracts, edibles. I’ve been providing services for the past three years.”
Lindroos spoke with a number of different police officers during his time at Front Street Emporium, including constables David Laing and Nate Holt, as well as deputy chief Paul Burkart.
“As soon as we received a complaint from a member of the public, we followed up,” said Burkart. “Our detectives went out and educated that person, telling them it was illegal and why.”
Burkart said though there are similar marijuana-selling establishments in the city, they don’t inspire the same complaints and have flown under the radar thus far.
“We’re out there educating the landlords, letting the building owners know their insurance may be null and void if they have one of these businesses in their building.”
Burkart said the police attempted to explain the difference between the old medical marijuana regulations and the new ones, but Lindroos said the information they provided was incorrect.
“They were telling me what I’m doing on paper is legal, but then they also said it’s legal for them to take my marijuana. They were saying we’re not allowed to sell in glass jars, in glass display cases, and these statements are inaccurate,” said Lindroos.
“For a while it seemed like they were going to leave me alone, maybe because they’re weren’t sure if marijuana was going to be legalized. I tried to explain to them I’m just running a compassion club.”
Burkart expressed skepticism that the society was actually a non-profit, noting that were capable of paying over $2,000 in rent at their Baker Street location.
“If we find out you’re selling marijuana out of your location, we’re going to investigate,” Burkart said.
Lindroos is most concerned about his patients, who range in age from 18 to 75. He estimates he had approximately 100 regular customers before his eviction.
“I saw so many people I was helping. I had one guy with mobility issues who couldn’t roll his own joints, couldn’t smoke a pipe. The other club wouldn’t help him but for ten bucks I rolled him like 16 grams.”
He said he’s been hearing from his regulars.
“They’re asking ‘can we still get some help?’ ‘What’s going on?’ There’s a lot of emotions going on with me because I’m feeling for them. They’re suffering. It’s upsetting.”
He said the double-eviction was demoralizing, but he plans to open a less ambitious third location.
“Hopefully it will be less in-your-face and they’ll leave me alone.”
He has contacted cannabis lawyer Kirk Tousaw to explore his options.
Lindroos said the marijuana industry has helped revitalize small towns like Nanaimo, but growers don’t receive the respect they deserve. He expressed disappointment that Nelson continues to enforce marijuana prohibition.
“We all pretend it doesn’t exist, which creates a terrible dynamic. Everybody isn’t being up front like in the rest of the world, where they’ve realized pot is no big deal. Here in the Kootenays we’re still holding onto prohibition, which is weird.”
Another established Compassion Club in Nelson declined to be interviewed for this story.