BK: I love that you guys are completely unique. For starters, what’s ganjika?
CS: Ganjika is an ancient sanskrit word for cannabis. I’m of Indian descent and born in Trinidad, where it’s called “Ganja,” not marijuana. If I was going to open up a store, I wanted to be true to myself.
BK: It totally comes through with your brand.
CS: The funny thing is I’ve never been into a dispensary prior to opening the store. (I used other means to get my product). Anyways, when it came time to open my own shop, I wanted my vision to be community oriented. The shop couldn’t be sterile. I wanted our retail experience to be about exploration. In a nutshell what we’re all about is celebrating weed.
BK: That’s really fucking cool.
CS: I never even used to smoke cannabis before I came to Canada. I got here when I was 17 and I went to Queen’s for my undergrad, intending to get into medicine. Living in residence, some guys were like, ‘He’s from Trinidad. Maybe he can roll our weed up for us.’ Well, obviously I couldn’t. But I did smoke it and it was just, ‘Wow.’ Then it was: ‘Why is this illegal? I’m never going to drink again.’ It was a real connection I felt.
BK: And that connection is shot through your store.
CS: I think so. All we want to do is pay homage to the plant that was prohibited for 100 years. It was called “the devil’s weed,” but studying science made me look at the roots of cannabis and how it connected to my heritage in India. It’s culturally important to me and the plant has been misrepresented and beat up on, so now that I have my own chance to represent it, I want to be an ambassador for the plant, and fight back against the lies and stigma.
BK: How long have you been rocking?
CS: We opened at 9 a.m., April 1. We’re one of the first stores to open in Ontario and the support has been tremendous. We’re seeing everyone from 19 years old to 98-year-olds.
BK: There is no way a 98-year-old came into your store to buy weed.
CS: She did. She came in with her 76-year-old daughter. I served her myself (and checked her ID after she insisted that I verify her age). It just goes to show that there’s no boundaries on who uses ganjika.
BK: What’s been the feedback from your neighbours?
CS: Love. We’ve blended into the community nicely, created jobs and tried to erase the cannabis stigma—our goal is to replace stigma with social value.
BK: And your budtenders?
CS: There’s one prerequisite for the job: you must consume weed. You have to know the product.
CS: Yes. My budtenders are all passionate people, knowledgeable about the plant and able to provide first-hand knowledge about the products we sell.
BK: What’s cooking with you guys this spring?
CS: 4.20.2020. We want to have a big celebration that day.
BK: And what is it you’re celebrating at the Ganjika House?
CS: We want to show the people who paved the way for us in the fight for legalization that their efforts were not in vain. They’re not all here, but we represent them every day in the best way we can, as ambassadors for this plant.