Late last January, Police raided Tarzan’s Hemp Store in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. They arrested the owner and his girlfriend on trumped up charges, lied to the media, and violated Ontario Supreme Court rulings by seizing literature including Cannabis Culture magazine. Their unlawful and abusive rampage was followed by harassment from none other than the chief of police himself. The bust has fast become an example of everything wrong with how the law deals with Canadian hemp stores.
Mike Ethier, owner of Tarzan’s Hemp, is definitely not shy about his marijuana activism. He joined the Church of the Universe. He sold medical marijuana. He ran for mayor of Sturgeon Falls. He organized the “Hempstock Festival” last summer and plans on running it again this coming summer. He got media attention. Others who have followed these paths have been routinely persecuted.
Ethier had some indication that “the powers that be” were starting to sour on him when the media began to refuse him their advertising space.
“I was just trying to put ads in the ‘help wanted’ section for bands and volunteers for this summer’s hempfest,” Ethier recalls.
Then the police came to his store on January 29. As with raids on Hemp BC and other stores, police officers operated in armed-robbery style, using their badges as an excuse to openly thieve money and goods they had no lawful right to confiscate.
“First they emptied my pockets,” Ethier says. “I had $1400 in my pockets. Then they took me to the cop shop. My girlfriend was kept in my office at the store. They started taking books off the shelves before they even had a warrant?”
Bongs, scales, roach clips, pipes ? all went into the cops’ grab bags. Then police began seizing literature, violating Judge Ellen McCart’s well-known 1994 ruling, which said that marijuana literature and other pro-drug information was protected under Canada’ Charter of Rights and Freedoms. McCart’s ruling meant that Section 462.2 of the Criminal Code, which dealt with selling “pro-drug” literature, was to be considered defunct and void by law enforcement officials. Apparently, the officers in Ontario are completely ignorant of the very laws they are sworn to uphold.
“They took Cannabis Culture magazines, High Times, medical marijuana books, grow guides and videos,” recalls Ethier.
This raid and seizure of books and magazines is not an isolated incident, but rather is part of a consistent pattern. Since McCart’s ruling police have repeatedly seized literature from hemp stores in Ontario, including the Pot Shop of Orillia, Buffy’s Hemp Store of Stratford, and Hemp, Head and Sound of Hamilton.
While illegally seizing goods, police charged Ethier and his girlfriend. Ethier was charged with three counts of trafficking, one count of possession for the purposes of trafficking and one count of proceeds of crime. He was also charged with 462.2 of the criminal code, which includes selling illicit paraphernalia and with the defunct law relating to selling cannabis literature.
“They charged my girlfriend with trafficking and selling illicit paraphernalia also,” Ethier asserts, “She has cancer and anorexia, and she spent the whole weekend in jail without her medicine. I don’t know why she was in jail for so long. She didn’t have any sacred herb in her pocket.”
According to Ethier, police inflated the case as much as they could in the local media, just as they did with Buffy Blue, of Buffy’s Hemp Store.
“Stories in the local papers say she was charged with two trafficking, one possession for the purpose, and one selling paraphernalia. But she didn’t have all of those charges. One of the local papers contacted the cops and they said to leave the story ‘as is, no retractions.'”
Ethier asserts that his girlfriend, Joanne Saud?, is charged only with trafficking and possession for the purpose.
As a condition of bail, Ethier was banned from his store, a constitutionally questionable condition that was also inflicted upon Marc Emery of Hemp BC during his bale. A few days after the raid on Tarzan’s Hemp, the chief of police dropped by, to deliver an over-stated political sentiment as one of the city’s top officials.
“I have bales of hay in front of my store,” Ethier says. “Today the chief of police came by and said the city says I am obstructing the sidewalk and should get rid of them. Other stores have signs and they aren’t obstructing.”
Like Tony Rizzo of Peterborough’s “Radical Riz” hemp store, Mike Ethier has found certain members of the community turning against him, possibly under pressure from authorities.
“My landlord [at home]is evicting me. He says that ‘illegal activities are happening here.’ On January 28, the landlord [of the store]said ‘under the present circumstances,’ he would evict me. I believe he got pressured by city hall. I had some lights and bales of hay in front of my store. And while I was in jail, he removed them. I found them behind his place afterward.”
The raid represented a serious financial loss for Ethier’s fledgling business. “I lost about $10,000 worth of retail in the raid.”
On February 25, less than a month after the first raid, police arrested Mike Ethier’s brother, Luke, who was running the store in Mike’s absence, and they seized more stock.
Police got a second warrant to raid Ethier’s store only after telling the JP that they had evidence that drug activity had continued at the location. However, police found no marijuana in the second raid.
? Mike Ethier of Tarzan’s Hemp Store: tel (705) 753-3206; email [email protected]