The past month has been an intense time for Vancouver’s pot culture, with a series of police raids and front-page newspaper articles effectively shutting down the city’s three most pot-friendly, cutting-edge businesses.
Da Kine Smokeshop
The Da Kine cafe, which openly sold marijuana and pot food for over four months at their storefront on Vancouver’s funky Commercial Drive, has been permanently shut down. Owner Carol Gwilt has been in jail for three weeks so far, since September 17.
Da Kine was originally raided by Vancouver police on September 9, after extensive attention from local media pressured the police into action. During the raid, dozens of police officers shut down the entire block and erected barricades to keep back the protesting crowds. 12 people were arrested and police seized approximately $64,000 in cash, nine kilos of marijuana, 450 grams of hashish and over 300 pot cookies.
Da Kine defiantly re-opened the next day, with store spokesman Lorne McLeod telling the media “We’re not going away. They’ve done the raid, here we are again. If they raid us again, we’ll open again.”
Owner Carol Gwilt and her employees were released after a night in jail, under strict bail conditions that included staying away from the store, and not possessing marijuana. At Gwilt’s bail hearing, provincial court Judge William Kitchen said it was “silly” for Gwilt to remain in custody, adding that marijuana-related cases were “not the most dangerous offences.” However, he warned Gwilt that violating her bail conditions would result in imprisonment until trial.
On September 16, Gwilt was arrested again at Da Kine, for violating her bail conditions as she was allegedly in possession of a kilo of buds. Gwilt was imprisoned and remains behind bars as of this writing on October 8.
Don Briere, past candidate for the BC Marijuana Party, is also currently imprisoned for his involvement in Da Kine. He was arrested on September 12, after police allegedly seized six pounds of marijuana and $6,000 in cash from Briere’s car.
Briere was on parole after serving 14 months of a four-year sentence for running a large pot growing and smuggling operation in Surrey. Briere’s lawyer, John Conroy, said his client’s parole has been suspended and a charge of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking has been laid.
In media interviews before his arrest, Briere had confirmed his involvement in Da Kine, saying the store was set up by the Canadian Sanctuary Society, a non-profit group he founded that to help people legally obtain marijuana for medical purposes. Briere’s “show cause” hearing is on October 14,
Originally, a public hearing was scheduled at Vancouver City Hall, to determine if Da Kine should have its business license revoked. However, on October 6, Da Kine officially gave up its business license and closed its doors for good.
Marijuana Party Compassion Club
On September 24, Vancouver police launched a raid on the Vancouver headquarters of the Canadian Marijuana Party. Not to be confused with the BC Marijuana Party HQ on Hastings Street, the federal Marijuana Party’s base is at Kingsway and Main, right next door to the office of Libby Davies, the anti-prohibitionist NDP MP for the area.
The federal Marijuana Party HQ, run by past Marijuana Party candidate Marc Boyer, was also an outlet for a “cannabis compassion club” which sold medical marijuana buds, as well as med-pot food products and topical lotions. To get access to the marjiuana, potential members had to make a written declaration that they used marijuana for a medical purpose. No doctor’s note was required.
(The Vancouver Compassion Club Society, which sell med-pot to over 2000 members, has never been raided in its seven years of operation. However, their membership conditions are quite strict and they require a doctor’s note before they will take on a new client.)
Boyer claims that his club is legal, because Canada’s Election Act allows a political party to support what they promote, and that act supersedes the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Nevertheless, masked police officers stormed the office and arrested the staff members present. When Boyer arrived on the scene he was also arrested and charged with trafficking. Boyer has since been released on bail.
Canada’s biggest mail-order marijuana service, Bud Buddy, has also announced a shut-down due to pressure from media and police.
Although the Vancouver-based Bud Buddy has not been raided, it hit the front pages of newspapers across Canada on September 19, as Vancouver media stumbled across the business that had been openly selling “BC bud” by mail-order for over a year.
Bud Buddy, which promoted itself as “Canada’s premiere mail-order marijuana service,” had bought ads in Cannabis Culture, Cannabis Health, and other pro-pot publications. Lengthy threads in the Cannabis Culture forums praised Bud Buddy’s customer service and quality product.
Shortly after the intense media coverage, Bud Buddy announced that he was shutting down his service. “Due to the media spotlight I have been forced to shut down my website,” wrote Bud Buddy in a post on the Cannabis Culture forums. “Also, Canada Post has now shut down my Coal Harbour mailbox, and all mail sent there is being returned to the sender.”
Bud Buddy was only one of a number of mail-order pot services operating within Canada, but it was also the most public and had the best reputation for speedy delivery and potent marijuana.