THC News December 2016 - Page 13

The Hemp & Cannabis News BUSINESS

December 2016 3

Whakamana gets

kerb appeal in

city centre switch

There will be something new on the menu in Dunedin from early next year when the Whamakana Cannabis Museum relocates to the city centre.

Since it opened in 2013, the museum has been housed at 66 David Street - around a 15-minute bus ride from the city's Octogon hub.

It's been a success, so much so that expansion plans that have been in the pipeline for several months are close to fruition.

The museum is moving to a three-storey location in the city centre, giving it plenty of visibility.

At the time of writing, the building is being used by an Indian restaurant - you can see from the pictures on the right what it looks like inside.

Customers who go to the Punjab Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Princes Street in Dunedin city centre have no idea that if they were to return for a meal from around the end of January their selection choice will have changed for the herbier.

Cannabis Party president Abe Gray is looking forward to the chance to expand the museum, which in recent times has been doing well as an accommodation on Airbnb.

The Hemp & Cannabis News writer Laure Kaplan went to Otago to sample the museum before it ends one chapter and begins another.

He said: "There are three big things that the move will bring to the museum. The most important is foot traffic, because it's right in the city centre and students in particular will be happy to have a cannabis hub within walking distance.

"The second thing is when it happens there will be a big media launch, because I can see that they're going to do a great job transforming that space, and it's going to show them in a realy positive light and get people to know it exists.

"It also gives the whole movement for change in the cannabis laws a specific focus point. There will, for a start, be a club where members can catch up and enjoy smoking or vaping their legal cannabis.

"It's sure to be popular, and the only question when it is will be who will open one in Auckland?

"I would imagine there's someone within the hospitality and restaurant business who would fancy the idea of opening one on K' Road."

At the current museum's location in suburban Caversham, like-minded people gather twice a week for socials, donating $4.20 and sometimes taking advantage of the facilities the museum has.

The museum, which is housed in one of the rooms and has exhibits from around the world, recently acquired a new item when owner Abe Gray was given one of the bags Rebecca Reider used to bring back the first legal weed into New Zealand in August this year.

The museum also has an office with computer facilities and a fully-equipped studio with mixing desk and green screen set-up.

Gray will be taking with him the recording equipment and hopes to utilise it again at the new three-level base.

On the ground level of the building, currently home to the restaurant, there will be a cafe area at the front - run separately from the museum.

The museum's exhibits will be displayed further back on the same level, though some of their artefacts and images will decorate the cafe area.

It will retain the name of the Whakamana Cannabis Museum, though Gray has plans to make a visual statement outside.

The signage which dates back to a previous use as Canton Cafe, is protected but can be modified to say Cannabis Cafe which is what Gray is planning.

The basement level will house the social club area. It has a stage at one end so the aim is for bands to be able to play there.

The upper level of the building will be converted into several bedrooms and bathrooms that Gray will again rent out through Airbnb.

The current restaurant business must move out by the end of the year so from January 1 2017 he will take possession and - with his partner in the venture who will run the food business - will begin work on turning the space into the Whakamana Cannabis Museum's new base.

Gray says that, under current laws, the situation is that 98 per cent of the cannabis market concerns buying and selling the drug which remains illegal. He may only be able to deal in the other two per cent., but it looks certain to become a profitable concern as it is effectively a brand.

The potential is there for someone to market that brand in terms of merchandising, but that may be some way down the track for Gray as he has two huge and extremely positive concerns. While planning the relocation of the museum he is, at the time of writing, only weeks away from becoming a father for the second time.

There would have been some concerns among Dunedin residents to the idea of a cannabis museum opening in the city, but the feedback in the three years since it was launched has been positive and it's likely the city authorities will welcome the relocation.

Gray polled reasonably well in the Dunedin mayoral vote in October, and has been a well-known identity in the city since his student days.

The lower level of the Cannabis Museum's new city centre base in Dunedin.

It's currently being used as a restaurant but will be the home of the social club where members can enjoy smoking or vaping legal cannabis.

Until the end of this month, customers at what is now the Tandoori Indian Restaurant get this view at street level. There will be a cafe on this level when the Whakamana Cannabis Museum relocates here, and the museum's exhibits will also be on this level.

Think of the word "Canton" changing to "Cannabis" and you're visualising what could become an iconic Dunedin sign.