Historic buildings’ revolutionary twist

Two of Christchurch’s oldest, cherished buildings are set to take on a revolutionary twist; home to New Zealand’s first cannabis social enterprise.



Whakamana, the New Zealand Institute of Cannabis Education, Research and Development, will be based in the enchanting Shands Emporium – the city’s oldest commercial wooden building – and also the historic Trinity Church. Restored by the Christchurch Historic Trust, the buildings sit adjacent on the Worcester and Manchester Street corner.

Hemp environmentalist Michael Mayell, founder of Cookie Time, Nutrient Rescue and Drinkable Rivers, has teamed up with veteran cannabis educator Abe Gray, after meeting at the inaugural iHemp Summit in Wellington last year.

Whakamana will incorporate an interactive world-class cannabis museum and education centre, a hemp food café and restaurant, an alcohol-free plant-medicine shot bar, a hemp emporium – and, subject to the outcome of the 2020 cannabis referendum, a cannabis dispensary.

The facilities will be built once a $1 million PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign is completed. Social entrepreneur Michael Mayell is excited by the venture. “This will be a facility that Christchurch will be proud of, an avant-garde attraction for locals and tourists alike – cannabis tourism is on the rise,” he says.

Advocating a shift from cows to cannabis for Drinkable Rivers, Michael’s mission is to enable every Kiwi to eat three tablespoons of hemp seeds daily for health, the environment and the economy. “Hemp – low THC cannabis – really matters for New Zealand.”

Abe Gray, Botanist and Science Communicator with 20 years’ cannabis industry experience, established Dunedin’s Whakamana Cannabis Museum in 2013. He says he is confident of the venture’s success. “The demand for cannabis education experiences is exploding globally as this industry expands exponentially and New Zealand is no exception,” he says.

“Cannabis is widely misunderstood in New Zealand. People forget that it has been used in some cultures for thousands of years. It used to be the number one industrial crop globally, and was legal in this country less than a hundred years ago.”

Whakamana will also establish a public Cannabis Education Centre of Excellence, with freely available educational, fun experiences about cannabis ‘plant power’ and pioneering uses for cannabis as a viable, sustainable food and fibre source. The medical profession will have access to cutting-edge research and accredited courses for knowledge advancement in medicinal cannabis use.

Michael and Abe have begun leasing Shand’s for five months as a base for their PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign, holding information and cannabis educational evenings with a different focus each night. This is to raise $1 million or more to transform Trinity Church into the cannabis educational experience.

Once funds have been raised, the Trinity building reinstatement for the café, shot bar and emporium can then open.

Whakamana’s social purpose is to improve lives and restore the planet through plant power – to be the trusted source of cannabis education, research and development.

Michael and Abe express immense gratitude to the trustees of the Christchurch Historic Trust for their wonderful job restoring the landmarks, and say their history will be acknowledged, with a new life as an institute dedicated to earth’s most versatile vegetable – a befitting next chapter for these 150-year-old icons.

For event information, visit cannabisinstitute.ac.nz or www.facebook.com/CannabisMuseum/.




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