The police shoot so many bullets through your door that they can drag you naked onto the street through the hole they have made with their guns, and then force you to wear your girfriend’s clothes to jail ? all on suspicion of possession of marijuana.
It’s not a nightmare ? it happened to Ellis Elliot on February 27 of this year. He was brutally assaulted despite the fact that police found no cannabis or other illegal substances in his home. Sure, Elliot fired a warning shot over the heads of what he believed were thieves trying to break into his home. The police had failed to identify themselves, and later claimed they had the wrong address. Mr Elliot is a 44-year-old man who had never before had a problem with police.
It was all part of a mayoral pogrom in New York which has among its agendas the oppression of the cannabis community. The drug war is being fought against harmless cannabis users all across the US and Canada.
On the other side of the continent, in the Canadian city of Vancouver, Mayor Philip Owen is waging a similar battle. Owen’s weapons are nepotism, threatening letters, ignorance of due process and attempts to suspend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Meanwhile, activists speaking out against the drug war are oppressed with high-tech weaponry and equipment. Cameras are installed on telephone poles across from their homes, helicopters buzz the sky and a simple traffic violation can lead to forty years in jail.
Brace yourselves! The drug war is coming to your home town.
Mayors vs Marijuana
If Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen were a member of some anti-drug religious group, then it would certainly explain the fire-and-brimstone threats he recently made to the New York Times concerning Hemp BC, Vancouver’s famous hemp store.
“They’re going to be toast by September,” he promised.
He hopes to make good on his threats. Ever since Owen imported Police Chief Bruce Chambers from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Hemp BC has been repeatedly raided (see CC#13). Chambers was not a random choice. He was already infamous for suppressing hemp stores in Thunder Bay. Yet, to the consternation of Mayor Owen, Hemp BC remains open.
Mayor Owen’s next move was to pressure Hemp BC through the city’s regulatory offices. Marc Emery, former owner of Hemp BC, was refused a business license after 3 years in business, supposedly because of charges resulting from previous raids. Marc sold the store in order to save it. Now the store is owned by Sister Icee, and has been renamed “Sister Icee’s Hemp BC”. Yet the pressure continues against both Icee and Emery.
Emery’s Seeds Sacked
It was September 2, just after 5pm, when six Vancouver Police sacked Marc Emery’s Direct Marijuana Seeds. They found a small personal bag of marijuana and charged Sean Price, seed sales manager, with two counts of possession for the purposes of trafficking. He was also charged with four counts of trafficking in seeds.
“I asked one officer if he wanted to buy marijuana seeds,” recounts Price, “and he got verbally abusive. He threatened to handcuff me and rub my face on the hardwood floor.”
Two other employees were similarly charged and taken to prison. Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture, who happened to be in the seed office at the time, was also handcuffed but was quickly released.
Although Marc Emery wasn’t in the office during the raid, police issued a warrant for his arrest. For Emery, it was just another stopping point on a long journey of persecution. After a ferry ride earlier that same week, he was picked up by West Vancouver Police, who were waiting for him at the dock. They searched him and found marijuana.
“It seemed like a strange reason to stop me,” said Emery. “They don’t usually charge people for possession in West Vancouver.”
Emery had appeared on “Big Life,” a popular television program, the night before. American media exposure has been a prominent prelude to raids against Emery, Sister Icee and other cannabis entrepreneurs in Vancouver.
Emery knows about the connection between media attention, the United States and raids, and is undaunted. He pioneered the marijuana seed market in Canada, and he intends to continue selling.
“The loss value was about $60,000 worth of seeds,” says Emery, “but we have distributors with surplus stock waiting to fill orders. We are still open for business.”
Marc Emery is again being charged with possession of seeds for the intention of trafficking as a result of this latest raid. His conditions for bail include being banned from another city block of downtown Vancouver, as he’s already banned from returning to the block where Hemp BC and the Cannabis Cafe are situated.
Hemp BC Slandered
In a threatening letter to Hemp BC’s landlord, city lawyers concocted a claim that “a twelve year old girl was found in the building openly smoking marijuana,” and that Icee, the store’s owner, was facing “drug charges.”
“I don’t have any ganja charges,” says Icee. “And this letter was the first I ever heard of a twelve-year-old girl on the premises. We have a strict over-18 policy here. It is curious that I already have a defamation and damages suit against the city and there they go again, slandering me in writing.”
Recent enquiries by Hemp BC’s lawyer have shown that it was not a twelve-year-old girl attempting to smoke reefer at the Cannabis Caf? at all ? it was the US marines. In a shocking violation of Canadian sovereignty, the Vancouver Police led US marines to Hemp BC and the Cannabis Caf? in an attempt to smoke marijuana on the premises. The act was listed as part of the evidence collection procedures undertaken before the April 30 raid on the two stores.
Icee will be facing a city council committee on September 29 and 30 (just after this issue goes to press), to defend her right to a business license. She has already successfully had Mayor Philip Owen removed from the committee, as his comments that her business would be “toast” clearly indicated his bias in the matter.
Vancouver’s Amsterdam Cafe has also come under pressure from their landlord after two police raids failed to close it down, raising speculation about whether the city has been applying pressure to the Amsterdam’s renter as well.
Mayor Owen’s attempts to shut down hemp stores is only a small part of his wider agenda. In the past, Owen has suggested that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should not apply to those suspected of drug use, allowing police expanded powers of search and seizure.
For a realistic example of what such expanded powers might be like for Vancouver residents, one need only take a look at New York.
Police or Terrorists?
“I thought America was invaded, that some force, a foreign force, came to kill us,” said Basil Shorter, talking about the police raid on his home last May 1.
New York Police kicked in his door, threw a stun grenade into the front hall and brutalized his family. Shorter, a retired baker, watched helplessly while police dragged his menstruating, mentally retarded daughter from her bath to bleed in the hall in front of gawking neighbours.
Police found no drugs whatsoever in the apartment, and the Shorters are now pursuing a 200-million-dollar lawsuit. The department later claimed that drug dealers sometimes deal from people’s homes “without their knowledge,” implying that no one in New York is safe from such foolish search and seizures.
The raid was a part of New York Mayor Giuliani’s “zero-tolerance” drug war. Giuliani’s war has resulted in numerous bungles. Since its inception, the New York Police force has been acting on unsubstantiated tips, breaking down doors without any clear or legal basis for their warrants.
In another raid this year, a 15 year old girl and her pregnant older sister were handcuffed while twelve police officers searched their home for cannabis. The pregnant woman was so scared that she peed herself and was left handcuffed, in a pool of her own urine, for over two hours. Once again police found nothing and later claimed that they had the wrong apartment.
The New York raids are shadowy reflections of dark periods in Vancouver’s own history. Like in May 1992, when Vancouver cops kicked in the door of a suspected pot dealer, and shot high-school student Daniel Posse to death for sitting in a chair with a pellet gun. The raid netted a measly 1/2 ounce of pot.
Activists in Office
Activists who take to running for public office are particularly prone to oppression ? from their political rivals.
Before he was forced to sell Hemp BC, Marc Emery ran for Mayor of Vancouver against Philip Owen. Ian Hunter, former owner of the Sacred Herb hemp store, also ran for mayor in Victoria, BC, and has since been forced to sell his store for much the same reasons as Emery.
Yet perhaps there is still hope for British Columbia’s lower mainland. Marc Emery plans to run again for Mayor again in 1999, and Ian Hunter also intends to escalate his political activism. Similarly, Randy Caine, whose recent constitutional appeal against Canadian marijuana laws was turned down (see CC#13), is planning on running for Surrey City Council as well. Caine has also founded the Canadian Action Coalition (CAC), which strives to find funding for human rights projects.
Despite the odds, at least one British Columbian marijuana activist has already made it into office. Brian Taylor is the only active cannabis advocate in a mayor’s seat in Canada today, and he has faced repeated persecution as a result.
“I have introduced medical marijuana to the city council again,” says Mayor Taylor, “and again they went crazy. One council member walked out. I have been taking hits in the local paper ever since.”
Ironically, Taylor’s marijuana advocacy has interfered with his efforts to develop the hemp economy in British Columbia.
“I was instrumental in a the formation of a provincial hemp association to work cooperatively with the Ministry of Health,” Taylor recounts. “Because I admitted smoking marijuana, they kicked me out at the first meeting. It came as a shock ? they ambushed me.”
Brian Taylor also admits that he was kicked out of the Granby Hemp Coop, of which he was also a founding member, for much the same reason.
When Taylor tried to cross the border to the States in July 1997, he was again surprised. They detained him, and although he didn’t have a speck of grass on him, they charged him with “conspiracy to cultivate and traffic in marijuana.” According to US authorities, the charges stem from when Taylor was arrested for growing industrial hemp before it was legal in 1995, and from videotapes the Americans have in which Taylor admits to smoking a joint. The charges for growing industrial hemp were dropped in a Canadian court.
Although the American charges of conspiracy are “administrative” and not criminal, he must travel to the States this November to defend himself or face life-long exclusion from the US.
Elected officials in the United States face persecution as well. Debbie Moore, an elected Wichita city official, was pulled over for a faulty tail light and, after a sinister series of consequences, faced forty years in jail.
The police had been watching her. She was a well-known active consumer of marijuana tax stamps, which by an odd twist in Kansas state law, made marijuana legal as long as the stamps were affixed to it. She had bought $30,000 worth.
With millions in federal funding pouring into Wichita since it was declared a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDA), the police have enormous resources to deal with upstarts like Ms Moore.
“From 1992 on,” she notes, “they had a camera installed on the telephone pole across the street from my house. I had black helicopters following me.”
Moore held a position in civil government, as a member of the “Citizens’ Participation Organization,” an advising commission to the city council, and regularly argued against the federally funded drug war. Meanwhile, she continued to agitate for legal hemp, as the founder of the Kansas Environmentalists for Commerce in Hemp, earning her the title “hemplady”.
“When the officer pulled me over he knew I was the hemplady,” she asserts. “I was an elected official at the police sub-station where he was stationed.”
The officer scraped .091 of a gram of ash from her car’s ashtray and charged her with felony marijuana possession. She received a suspended 11 month sentence and 2 years of probation. But the real harassment was only beginning.
“On March 20 of 1996, the DEA, CIA and local cops broke into my office and seized my computer. What they were trying to do was get me on the 40-year repeat offender thing. They had me accused of 3 and a half pounds. I had tax stamps everywhere in my house.”
A sympathetic jury convicted her of only misdemeanor possession, and she is appealing both charges. But the harassment continues. Debbie Moore has since been stripped of office by the Mayor, who passed a law disallowing anyone with criminal charges from holding such positions.
Medical Marijuana in the US
Some American cities are defying the federal government and putting their full weight behind medical marijuana. In Oakland, California, even while bylaws were being enacted to allow vehicles of suspected drug buyers to be confiscated and sold without trial, the city itself is getting into the medical marijuana business. In a move to immunize the Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Cooperative from federal prosecution, Oakland has designated its operators to be “officers of the city.” Ironically, the federal provisions which make officers of the city immune to drug charges were originally for the purpose of allowing undercover DEA agents to engage in sting operations.
This is all part of an ongoing battle being waged by medical marijuana activists in California, who claim their right to sell medical marijuana under the voter-approved bill which makes it legal in that state. The federal government has been fighting the new bill ever since it became legal, busting and closing down the most famous of the medical marijuana distribution centres, the San Francisco Buyers’ Club, founded by Denis Peron.
The government will stop at nothing to stem the growing movement. In December of last year, the DEA broke down the doors of Paladin Press, owned by author Peter McWilliams, who founded the Medical Botanical Foundation for the distribution of information about St John’s Wort and marijuana. McWilliams also suffers from both cancer and AIDS.
The DEA found that McWilliams had contracted medical-pot activist and spokesman Todd McCcormick to write a book about medical marijuana. When they subsequently raided McCormick’s house, they found a medical marijuana grow operation. Both McWilliams and McCormick are now facing terms in a federal penitentiary, and are being denied their life-saving medicine, marijuana.
Shutting the mouths of authors like McWilliams and McCormick is only a small part of the government’s worries. Activists in Arizona, Oregon and Washington DC have collected enough votes to put medical marijuana on the ballot. In Nevada, Colorado and Washington, state governments have attempted to derail the movement by “adjusting” the number of signatures in various counties. In Nevada, activists forced a recount, and their initiative has since been approved for voter consideration. In Washington and Colorado, appeals for recounts are under way.
Medical Marijuana in Canada
In Canada, various federal government officials, like Health Minister Allan Rock and Justice Minister Anne McLellan, have claimed to be studying medical marijuana. Yet many believe that they are just trying to delay a public reaction against federal health oppression.
Grant Kreiger, who gave medical marijuana to a fellow Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, is one of the many medical users that continues to be found guilty of cannabis charges. Kreiger’s judge has said that if Kreiger can show proof that marijuana helps MS, the court will provide a lighter sentence. Kreiger provided the judge with a report produced by the German University of Meinck’s Department of Neurophysiology, entitled “The Effects of Cannabinoids on Spasticity and Ataxia in MS.”
The irony of having to provide evidence for something Kreiger has experienced first hand brings a bitter tone to his voice.
“I am proof that marijuana is good for MS,” he asserts.
Large-scale action is also happening in Canada. All across Ontario, medical marijuana clubs are popping up in a province-wide initiative to make the medicinal herb available to all who need it. In other provinces, like BC, well established outlets like the Cannabis Compassion Club continue to provide healing herb to terminally and chronically ill patients.
Prisoners of Pot Protest
It isn’t always easy to raise awareness when even a peaceful demonstration can become an opportunity for full-scale, coordinated police action, with activists singled out for oppression.
When eight uniformed officers broke down the doors of their Orillia, Ontario hemp store, “Potshop”, owners Ron McInnis and Anne Russell already knew that it was an attempt to prevent them from celebrating what has become known as “Cannabis Day.”
“We knew we were going to get arrested, we just didn’t know what for,” McInnes relates.
Police had warned them ahead of time that their attempt to turn the national Canada Day holiday into Cannabis Day would be met with force. It just “happened” that, after they advertised their event, the city announced plans to hold their Canada Day in the same park. Someone in the upper levels of city government wanted Canada Day to go unchanged.
The day before the celebration, McInnis and Russell, organizers of Orillia’s Cannabis Day, were arrested on charges of selling instruments for illicit drug use, under 462.2 of the criminal code. Stock, including some literature, was seized ? despite the fact that it has been illegal for police to seize cannabis literature in Ontario since a supreme court ruling in 1995. The court dates for McInnes and Russell are December 17 and 23, respectively.
The celebration happened anyway, with activist Mike Lancaster filling in for McInnis and Russell, who were behind bars. Several hundred people attended. In an attempt to fill the crowd with nationalistic furor even while demonstrating exactly what is wrong with Canada, Orillia Mayor Ken McCann made his address.
“Canada is the best country in the world,” he boasted.
“Then Mike Lancaster smoked a joint for the TV camera,” says McInnis, “and he swallowed the roach. The police took him down and arrested him. Six people were arrested, and none of them for marijuana.”
But it wasn’t marijuana they were being arrested for anyway, it was peaceful demonstration. Authority was threatened and the truth about marijuana was forcefully quieted.
Similarly, the deafening blast of helicopter blades quieted a gathering in Kenora, Ontario.
Recently, in Kenora, what was billed as the “End of the World Music Festival,” a platform for eco-awareness promoted by Bruce Rathbone, became an all out oppression-fest. Terry Bordynuik, owner of “Northern Hydroponics” in Thunder Bay, was in attendance.
“They patrolled in Suburbans, in vans, in unmarked cars, on motorcycles, in boats, in helicopters,” Bordynuik recounts.
“They had logistics officers, a telecommunications centre, and two canine units. The helicopter would hover over the camping area. They wore bulletproof vests, dark uniforms, military boots, and all had semi-automatic weapons on their belts ?”
According to Terry, the military-style effort was organized expressly for the purpose of arresting marijuana smokers, and the police even proclaimed their intentions the first night of the festival. Ontario newspapers reported that of the eleven charges laid at the festival, seven were for personal possession of marijuana.
Terry and his partner, Karen Charles, a Governor General’s Award winner as top student in her graduate class, were among those arrested for marijuana possession.
“When I left,” says Terry, “One cop was screaming like a boot-camp sergeant. He ticketed me for lack of a seat belt.”
Speak Out or Be Oppressed!
Speak out for what you believe in or be oppressed ? it’s your choice. Across the continent, the war on drugs is being used by police and elected officials alike to solicit funding from federal governments, to attack political opponents, to suppress protesters and to strip people of their constitutional rights.
The cannabis community must stand together for its common values or be crushed by the weight of oppression. It is in the best interests of every cannabis user to support their local hemp stores and activists with donations of time, money and moral support. Activists are the front lines. When the front lines are destroyed, the rest of cannabis culture will be subject to the full military suppression of the war on drugs.
Busted Up Dates:
– In addition to recent charges, Marc Emery is defending himself against eight other counts of possession of seeds for the purpose of trafficking, and must go to court in April of 1999 to defend himself.
– Randy Cain’s constitutional challenge is going to be appealed on September 29 and 30. While the judge in Caine’s case make a stunning indictment of Canada’s drug laws, she decided that Caine did not have recourse to a constitutional remedy for his possession charge.
The appeal will be based on a point of law, not point of fact,” says Randy. “The ruling takes all of the integrity from the law.”
– Mike Spindloe’s constitutional challenge of 462.2 has also been turned down. Spindloe charges stem from raids on his Saskatoon, Saskatchewan hemp store, the Vinyl Exchange.
– An internal police investigation made after a raid against Sonny Krumm’s medical marijuana operation, which ended in his elderly mother’s death, has resulted in no charges against the officers involved.
“They called me up and told me it was my own fault my mother died,” says Krumm.
Sonny Krumm has found a lawyer through legal aid.
Contact one or more of the following people and offer your moral and/or financial support. They will appreciate it.
– Marc Emery, Publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine: (604) 669-4690
– Sister Icee of Sister Icee’s Hemp BC and the Cannabis Caf?: (604) 681-4620
– Randy Caine of the Canadian Action Coalition: (604) 534-9971
– Sonny Krumm: (250) 635-6725
– Ron McInnes of Potshop: (705) 325-7552
– Mike Spindloe of The Vinyl Exchange: (306) 244-7090
– Terry Bordynuik of Northern Hydroponics: (807) 623-2397
– Grant Kreiger, MS Sufferer: (403) 235-1244
– Debbie Moore, the “Hemplady”: (316) 681-1743
– Brian Taylor, Mayor of Grand Forks: (604) 442-5166
Contact the following officials to express your repugnance at deplorable political tactics.
– Mayor Owen of Vancouver, BC: (604) 873-7621; fax (604) 873-7685
– Mayor Giuliani of New York, NY: (212) 788-1400
– RCMP Complaints: Solicitor General of Canada Public Complaints Commission, 7337 137th St ? Suite 102, Surrey, BC, Canada, V3W 1A4; 1-800-665-6879