The past two years have been a wild ride for Vancouver’s Evergreen Cannabis

The shop’s owners were the first to receive a provincial licence for a retail cannabis store in British Columbia

evergreen-babins

Mike Babins (right) is one of the owners of Evergreen Cannabis, the first legal weed shop to open in Vancouver.

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In the two years that he’s been a licensed private cannabis retailer in Vancouver, Mike Babins has learned an important lesson.

“Trust cannabis users over computers,” the former radio DJ said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve been offered many an app that helps you stock your store based on what the top sellers are in the province. It does all the analysis. And I know a lot of the stores are using that.”

Babins, co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis on West 4th Avenue, employs a different approach.

“If I wouldn’t smoke it, I am not going to carry it,” he declared.

Babins has also learned that people usually don’t require nearly as great a high from edibles as they might think. Customers sometimes come into the store and request 100 milligrams when he said they might be happy with only two or five milligrams. That’s because microdosing often gets people to “the right place where you need to be for what you’re doing that night”.

“You don’t drink a full bottle of scotch [at once],” Babins noted. “You may have in high school, but you learned your lesson.”

Praying to Lemmy

On Christmas Eve in 2018, Babins and Petrucci received news that they were the first to receive a provincial licence for a retail cannabis store in B.C. Babins, who has a long-time love of heavy metal, attributed this good fortune to the store’s long-haired, bearded saviour, “Lemmy”, a.k.a. Ian Fraser Kilmister. He’s the deceased lead singer and primary songwriter with Motörhead.

“I was praying to Motörhead all day,” Babins quipped.

In 2020, Evergreen Cannabis launched a fundraising campaign to help PHS Community Services Society, a charitable nonprofit society that provides housing, health care, and harm-reduction services to people facing multiple challenges and who are among the hardest to find homes for. The store raised $16,938.39 through the sale of products that carried the Evergreen Cannabis logo.

Customers can pay, by donation, whatever they want to give. According to Babins, every penny goes directly to PHS.

“One of our staff used to volunteer with them,” he said. “They’re a great organization.”

As an example, a customer could purchase an electric USB lighter in his store. A product such as this might ordinarily sell for $25 online. But the customer might only pay $7, as long as it has the Evergreen Cannabis logo.

Babins noted that because this lighter is rechargeable and doesn’t rely on butane, it’s sustainable. There are also rolling trays and grinders made from bamboo and pocket ashtrays created from recycled plastic, with the proceeds going to PHS.

“We try to be as green as possible,” Babins said.

A wild and enjoyable ride

The past two years have been a wild and enjoyable ride for him and his wife, Maria Petrucci, who co-owns the store. As a result of the pandemic, they were offering products curbside for a while. They’ve since broadened the Plexiglas shield in the store.

If there’s been any disappointment, it’s with the City of Vancouver, which is still charging a $35,000 annual fee for a business licence even though Evergreen Cannabis meets all the provincial requirements.

Even after paying that hefty amount, the city wouldn’t come and remove posters advertising an illegal dispensary outside his legal store.

“When I paid last year, they gave me a paper copy of the licence,” Babins recalled. “I asked, ‘could you give me a digital copy to keep in my email?’ And they said ‘that will be a $15 charge.’ ”

On principle, Babins refused to pay any more money and decided instead to scan the document.

Charlie Smith

I'm the editor of the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver, as well as a CannCentral contributor.

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