Cannabis Canada, spring96 – HempBC Got Busted
cannabis canada special report
Hemp BC is Busted
by Dana Larsen
Just after 1pm on Thursday, January 4th, 1996, both the retail storefront and the wholesale office of Hemp BC were raided by Vancouver police. They were acting on a search warrant issued on the grounds of possession of marijuana with intent to traffic. This was in reference to the Hemp BC cannabis seed selling operation.
25 police officers, 12 police cars, and 1 Budget rental truck were enlisted to carry out the task of looting HempBC's storefront and warehouse. The thug pictured below is just one of the undercover cops involved with the bust.
Photo by: David Malmo-Levine
Photo by: David Malmo-Levine
The police occupied the store until about 4 or 5pm, and cleared it out of bongs, pipes, herbal stimulants, mushroom kits, germinable seeds, rolling papers and a selection of hemp clothing and books. About $50,000 of bongs and merchandise was confiscated, plus another $45,000 in marijuana seeds.
The Hemp BC wholesale office, which is also the Cannabis Canada magazine and website office, was occupied and searched by Vancouver police officers until about 8pm. All of the above mentioned goods were seized, as well as computer disks containing past issues of Cannabis Canada and other miscellaneous magazine files. Although these were clearly outside the bounds of the search warrant, it could be quite some time, if ever, before they are returned to us.
Marc Emery, owner of Hemp BC and publisher of Cannabis Canada, was charged with trafficking in marijuana (seeds) and selling “literature and instruments for illicit drug use contrary to section 462.2 of the Criminal Code.” He was arrested and led from his office in handcuffs. The store manager and two employees were also arrested on similar charges, handcuffed, and taken to jail in the paddy wagon.
The four of them were held until about midnight, a total of eleven and a half hours. Police also arrested Marc’s 16 year old son, who works in the warehouse but was in the retail store during the raid.
Police also had a search warrant for Marc Emery’s house, but Marc had moved recently and so the police went to the wrong location.
Photo by: Mark Bologna
Constable Anne Drennan, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department: giving her play by play of the big bust.
Photo by: Mark Bologna
The media was there right after the cops, apparently having been notified in advance. Police Spokesperson Constable Anne Drennan, was on the scene, giving the cameras a running commentary on the raid in progress. A crowd of supporters and would-be customers gathered outside the locked doors, many demanding that Hemp BC be left alone, and that the police go after real criminals.
Spontaneous Public support
The police finished the raid on the retail store around 4:30pm, taking away the store’s contents in a few of their police cars.
The police were in the Hemp BC wholesale and mail-order offices until about 8:30pm. They required at least four unmarked police cars and a huge Budget Rent-a-truck to clear out the merchandise they wanted.
As word of the raid spread throghout the neighbourhood, a crowd of about forty people gathered downstairs of the Water Street office while the police were upstairs.
Although the crowd was peaceful, the police must have felt threatened as they unloaded our office, because another four marked police cars were successively brought in. There was up to six uniformed officers guarding the front entrance to the building at any one time.
The crowd chanted and drummed and with polite beligerence told the police that they were fascist pawns who should be chasing real criminals. The cops alternately smiled and aggressively removed people from their way, unloading box after box of the Hemp BC warehouse into the Budget truck and their unmarked police cars. The media loved the scene and reporters and cameramen jostled among the crowd to interview police officers and protestors.
Business as usual
The Hemp BC retail storefront opened as usual the next day, staff and friends having come in early to clean the place up from the devastation brought on by the cops. The store was filled with cameras and reporters covering the continuing saga of Hemp BC, and although the store was understocked, some orders had arrived that day and pipes and bongs were sold to eager customers.
Within a few days the store was looking as if nothing had changed, aside from a limited selection of merchandise, signs on the walls explaining the tragic circumstances, and a tired yet determined look on the faces behind the counter.
There has been some changes to accomodate the new situation. All staff have taken drastic pay cuts to meet the immediate financial challenge. The wholesaling operation has been temporarily suspended, and marijuana seeds will no longer be sold over the counter at Hemp BC. For more information on the situation regarding seeds, contact Hemp BC.
We Need Money
Hemp BC desperately needs all the money it can get, and so all clothing in the store has been discounted by 40% for an Emergency Raid Sale. Calendars and some other items are also on special. Hemp BC desperately needs public support to survive.
Another excellent way to support Hemp BC is to subscribe to Cannabis Canada, and get subscriptions for your friends and family. We will also gratefully accept donations.
If we are victorious in our efforts, and we will be if we have public support, then your donation will be money well spent. Hemp BC will take this challenge as far as we can, but we cannot do this alone. We have been hit with a major financial blow.
Destructive Police Action
Hemp BC employs over twenty people full time, and all of their jobs are threatened by this invasive and unnecessary police action.
Hemp BC has also become the vanguard of the Canadian cannabis movement, and many hemp stores across Canada rely on Hemp BC to supply them with stock and merchandise. This growing network of hemp stores is acting to revitalize the Canadian economy and employ more Canadians in meaningful and productive work. It should not be attacked by arbitrary, invasive, and destructive police action.
Pattern of Harrassment
This police raid is part of a pattern of increased police harassment of hemp stores in Vancouver and across Canada.
On November 2nd “The Joint”, a hemp store in North Vancouver, was raided by police and all of the merchandise in the store was seized, supposedly because of an inaccurate business license.
On November 22nd, Hemp BC was raided after-hours. The owner of the Joint was visiting Hemp BC, and he was arrested along with an employee and an uninvolved customer, for possession of less than a gram of marijuana between them.
On December 15th, a store in Thunder Bay called Kaiyun was raided by Ontario Police. The store carried a small quantity of pipes and bongs along with their main business of imported silver jewellery and semi-precious stones. Over $5,000 in merchandise was confiscated, and the owner and one (pregnant) employee were charged under section 462.2 of the Criminal Code.
These capricious attacks by police mirror the intolerant prohibitionist attitude of Bill C-7, which was surreptitiously passed by Parliament on the day of the Qu?bec referendum. Bill C-7 is currently being examined by the Senate, and it must not be allowed to pass there without significant amendments. This kind of vicious police harassment is just the beginning of the treatment Cannabis Canadians can expect if Bill C-7 becomes law.
Grasstown Police Riot
These police actions also echo “Operation Dustbin”, a Vancouver municipal zero-tolerance policy which has its 25th anniversary this year. An anti-prohibitionist demonstration by concerned citizens resulted in the “Grasstown Police Riot” of August 1971, in which Vancouver police ran amock and beat many peaceful residents and tourists.
Marijuana is Good.
Prohibition is wrong.
Canadians must no longer tolerate these attacks upon peaceful citizens who use marijuana. All Canadians must demand an immediate end to government persecution of peaceful cannabis users.
The Canadian cannabis community has a vibrant culture which has managed to thrive despite decades of relentless persecution. Hemp BC will persist in supporting Cannabis Canadians and breaking these unjust laws as often as possible. The Narcotic Control Act and Bill C-7 are based solely upon bigotry and ignorance, and must be completely removed from Canadian society.
Let Freedom Ring
It is very important that the police and the politicians know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They must continue to be deluged with letters and phone calls and faxes over the weeks and months to come.
The Vancouver police should be told that it is a waste of resources for them to be sprouting hemp seeds to bust Hemp BC, and that it is not right to raid Hemp BC simply because of media attention. They can be reached at: (604) 665-3081.
Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre (where Hemp BC is located) and member of the Bill C-7 subcommittee, should be urged to support Hemp BC because it is bringing business into her riding, and told that Hemp BC was raided because of police anticipation of the vicious Bill C-7. She should also be asked why she supported passing Bill C-7 on the day of the Qu?bec Referendum.
Hedy Fry can be telephoned at (604) 666-0135 or (613) 992-3213, and faxed at (604) 666-0114. Her Parliament address (postage free!) is Room 558-D, Centre Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6. Her Vancouver address is 106 – 1030 Denman St., Vancouver, BC, V6G 2M6.
The Mayor of Vancouver is Philip Owen. He has insulted Hemp BC in the media many times, and he should be told that Hemp BC is an important asset to Vancouver. He should also be reminded that drug overdose is the number one cause of death among British Columbians aged 30-44, and that the vast majority of those deaths occur in the Vancouver area. You should urge him to support the Frankfurt Resolution.
Philip Owen can be reached at (604) 873-7621 or (604) 873-7273, and faxed at (604) 873-7685 or (604) 873-7750. His mailing address is 453 W 12th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1V4.
It is also extremely important for you to contact local and national media to inform them of your opinion and ask them why they have not given Bill C-7 adequate coverage. All Cannabis Canadians should consider it their duty to correct lies and misinformation about cannabis in the media.