The City of Vancouver has been trying to get rid of Hemp BC for some time. According to observers, the decision to deny Sister Icee’s Hemp BC a business licence was made by the city even before Sister Icee, owner of the famous hemp store, attended the five city council hearings to decide Hemp BC’s fate.
Hemp BC’s Sister Icee has already attended four of the city council hearings. The hearings, characterized by the local media as a “Kangaroo Court”, have been fraught with shows of bad faith, disrespect for the Supreme Court of BC, and blatant lying by the city and its lawyers. Fear-mongering police officers, instrumental in past busts against Hemp BC, have been called as witnesses to slander Icee’s store. In the gallery, a disaffected public hiss and boo at the outrageous injustice of the city’s machinations.
Meanwhile, Mayor Philip Owen, who was forced to dismiss himself because of personal bias, literally sits behind a curtain at the hearings, a twisted caricature of the grand Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings of his stand-in, Deputy Mayor George Puil.
Sean Price, a volunteer at Hemp BC, has attended the proceedings, and is convinced the outcome has already been decided.
“It seems totally obvious if you look at how Puil is going through with the whole show-cause hearing. The decision has already been made. Everybody already knows who will be voting for and against.”
At the hearing on January 26, city lawyers continued to refer to 462.2 charges of selling “illicit drug paraphernalia” against Icee, the store’s owner, despite promises from the city in Supreme Court to refrain from such references.
“The whole 462.2 issue turned into a joke,” says Price. “It also jeopardizes Icee’s criminal trial because all the information has been made public at the city hearing. This is a show cause hearing for a business license, not a court of law.”
Among those testifying were officers who have been instrumental in raiding Hemp BC in the past.
“All the police come up and just blab bullshit into the microphone,” recounts Price. “They had all the big players there, too: Neal Tyldsley, Ian Thurber, Wayne Cope, Mark Bragagnola, and Cinda Lucille Loes.”
Sister Icee recounts how the city’s lawyers attacked her character at the February 4 hearing.
“City legal wrapped up their case with some video clips, a Roger’s interview I did with Marc. Each segment lasted 3 seconds. Then they turned it off. Just enough to show what they wanted everyone to see. There was one in which I said ‘I smoke pot’ and he clicked it off and he said, ‘that’s that’. The second lasted the same length and it described how I used marijuana for medicine for both my children instead of pharmaceuticals. And I thought, ‘that made me look good.’ Then I looked around and realized where I was.”
Still, the public in the gallery have been supportive of Icee and Hemp BC, cheering her and booing the perverted city process with ironic jeers.
“After that,” says Icee, “the gallery erupted into cheers ? someone yelled, ‘burn her at the stake!'”
Personal attacks against Sister Icee are a continued violation of the city’s agreement to refrain from introducing any evidence not related to the running of the store. At the final hearing on March 8, the city’s slanderous rhetoric against Sister Icee reached its zenith as the city’s lawyer, John Nelson, made his closing arguments.
“Basically, his closing arguments took some facts presented at the hearing, suggested other facts that did not exist, and formulated some wild theories about Marc Emery owning the store,” says Brent Lokash, Sister Icee’s lawyer. “Just crazy, crazy theories. Akin to the Salem witch-hunts.”
Icee recalls how the attacks against Hemp BC increasingly became attacks against her own character.
“In John Nelson’s summation, he really focussed on the fact that I had given my children cannabis medicinally,” recalls Icee, “he was trying to say that I was smoking up with them.”
Nelson packed together any mud he could find to sling at Icee. He also ignored the testimony of nearby shop-owners, who had asserted that Hemp BC had a positive influence on the area.
“Nelson said that we caused harm to the neighbourhood,” says Icee, “Nelson also said that we were engaged in illegal activity, but I don’t have a criminal record. Nelson lied in his summation when he said that I didn’t provide [business]documents to the city? I have book-keeper records which prove otherwise. Nelson called me a puppet of Marc Emery’s and said I was doing his dirty work. Every sentence was a partial truth, a half-lie, or an outright lie. It was biased and libelous. The councillors felt they had to respond to the lies pouring forth from Nelson’s lips.”
Public turnout for the March 8 hearing was better than ever. An overflowing gallery railed against the proceedings.
“Through the howls of derision from the crowd, with encouragement from Puil to speed it up, Nelson continued his inept ramblings,” Price recalls.
Police were called out in force, as nervous councillors cringed in their chairs. The back room bristled with uniforms, and outside a suburban and two unmarked cruisers crammed with cops waited for possible trouble. According to Icee, there may have been as many as 200 undercover officers on the scene. In the end, however, all was peaceful, despite the fact that city council voted unanimously to deprive Hemp BC of its licence.
“Councillors gave impassioned rationales and little pithy speeches towards the evidence which says marijuana is harmless,” says Mike Butts, Cannabis Culture’s art director, who was on the scene. “Then they ultimately gave lame and uninformed reasons for toeing the party line.”
Icee is planning to fight the decision.
“The lawyers are gathering the info they need to apply for a judicial review,” Icee says. “A judge will look over the information presented at the hearing and decide if it was properly done.”
? Hemp BC lawyer Brent Lokash: (604) 891-0208
? Mayor and councillors: Vancouver City Hall, 435 West 12th, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1V4; tel (604) 873-7621; fax (604) 873-7750; email [email protected];