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Clock ticking to invest in possibly NZ’s first cannabis cafe

Clock ticking to invest in possibly NZ’s first cannabis cafe

With release of the Government’s draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, public interest in supporting a new cannabis museum and research institute in central Christchurch has intensified, according to its founders. However, those who can now see the bigger opportunities for the facility will need to act in the coming days.

Opening Whakamana Museum and enabling the refurbishment of the historic Trinity Congregational Church, severely damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes, is the dream of leading cannabis advocate Abe Gray and social entrepreneur Michael Mayell.

Last month Wakamana launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMe, enabling the public to collectively co-own a majority of the company – a first social enterprise of its kind in New Zealand.

The campaign has so far enticed 275 people, with only two days to go. However, Mr Gray says the Government’s proposed legislation has changed everything with Wakamana’s sheer possibilities and potential even more exciting.

Justice Minister Andrew Little recently released the draft legislation that would be introduced into Parliament if a majority of New Zealanders voted to support legalising personal cannabis use at next year’s referendum. The draft bill would allow for the likes of licenced cannabis cafés, dispensaries and social clubs to operate.

“We’re perfectly placed to be the first licenced cannabis café in New Zealand. We’ve already got a significant jump on other potential operators as we’re a well-established cannabis culture and lifestyle brand. In fact, Whakamana is already attracting up to 3,000 visitors a month, so we’re halfway there,” says Mr Gray.

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The proposed institute, which will include a hemp food eatery and alcohol-free nightclub, will be housed in the former Trinity Church and adjacent Shand’s Emporium on Manchester Street. Both are two of the oldest buildings in Christchurch, with Whakamana operating as a boutique museum in the Shand’s building since late October.

He says the PledgeMe campaign has been slower than anticipated but public enquiries have lifted since the release of the proposed legislation.

“Up until now no one really knew if and how the likes of cannabis cafes and dispensaries would be treated by the law. That’s now a lot clearer, and with opinion polls showing the referendum could be close, people are waking up to the possibilities of owning a piece of the action, with Whakamana well and truly in the box seat,” says scientist and cannabis expert, Abe Gray.

The business partners say regardless of the public referendum result, Wakamana’s business case for the institute is based on lifting public awareness about cannabis and its many uses to help sustain the world’s environment into the future.

Mr Gray says while people have just a couple of days to pledge their support, it’s important to note that no one will need to hand their money over until after Christmas.

Pledges close on 4.00pm, Monday 16 December. To view Whakamana’s equity crowdfunding campaign, visit


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