Cindy Pendergast and Brad Styles, who own Happy Buddha Cannabis, with a figurine of Buddha in early December 2019. Siddhartha Gautama (later known as the Buddha) founded the religion some 2,500 years ago in India. The proposed name of the business now faces opposition for being religiously insensitive. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney resident lights up proposed cannabis store for being insensitive toward Buddhism

Richard Talbot said proposed name insults Buddhists

The name of what could be Sidney’s first store selling recreational cannabis stands accused of being insensitive toward Buddhism.

Sidney resident Richard Talbot said the store’s proposed name of Happy Buddha Cannabis is “really insulting toward anybody who is a Buddhist or who has Buddhist friends.”

While not a Buddhist himself, Talbot said his has family ties to India, going back some 200 years. They raised him to be sensitive and respectful of all religions – a point also made toward the end of his letter sent to Sidney councillors, as they prepare to hear the case for or against the business proposed for the 2400-block of Beacon Avenue.

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While he has not heard directly from Buddhists themselves, they rarely speak up on these issues, he suggested.

“They are just offended and keep it for themselves,” he said. Talbot also wondered, “How on Earth would that have gone under the radar” against the backdrop of various social movements such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ2.

Cindy Pendergast and Brad Styles, who own Happy Buddha Cannabis, said they chose the name to reflect a “light-hearted and open” worldview.

“As experienced retailers of over 20 years and responsible parents and neighbours we always respect good dialogue,” they said in a note to the Peninsula News Review.

They said the Buddha name and symbol “are commonly seen, accepted and respected within personal and business environments” as any cursory Internet search would show.

“While we love the name Happy Buddha, we are also of the opinion that life, well-lived, should be about listening, learning and growing.”

According to the Pew Research Centre, Buddhists made up 7.1 per cent of the world’s population in 2010, just under 488 million. Countries with large Buddhist majorities include Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar with China home to the largest number of Buddhists in excess of 240 million. Sizable Buddhist populations also exist in Japan and South Korea. According to the 2011 census, Canada was home to 366,830 Buddhists, about 1.1 per cent of the population. Greater Victoria was home to 3,835 Buddhists in 2011. It is not clear how many Buddhists live in Sidney specifically and the Saanich Peninsula specifically.

Questions about the name of the store represent the latest twist in its story as the business faces Sidney councillors after a successful court challenge against the municipality following its initial denial over window rules since changed. Interested parties have until 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 to submit written comments to the Town of Sidney, which has scheduled a special public participation period for Monday, Sept. 28, during council’s regular meeting starting at 6 p.m.

Paula Kully, Sidney’s communications coordinator, said the municipality does not have any jurisdiction over businesses names. “This is a provincial government function,” she said.

Brendan Wright, senior public affairs officer with the ministry of attorney general, said the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), said the office does not regulate business names beyond provincial requirements related directly to cannabis sales.

“For example, names and signage of a non-medical cannabis retailer cannot imply that they are a provider of medical cannabis, or indicate the store is associated with government,” he said.

Ultimately, it is licensee’s responsibility to determine the suitability of a name subject to existing rules, he said.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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