What follows is an account of the recent harassment inflicted upon Nelsons Holy Smoke Culture Shop.
HOLY SMOKE RAIDED BY NELSON POLICE
On October 15, the Ides of October, the very same day as it’s one year
anniversary, Holy Smoke Culture Shop was raided by Nelson City Police. Two
of the owners, Alan Middlemiss and Dustin Sunflower Cantwell and one patron
were arrested for possession of cannabis. The third partner, Paul DeFelice,
awaits a summons. No formal charges have been laid yet but the NCP say they
expect to do so within thirty days. The police report finding small amounts
of cannabis and possible hallucinogenic mushrooms and are expecting to lay
possession and trafficking charges.
The Nelson City License Inspector was among the 50 to 80 people on the site
witnessing the raid. Before the NCP had finished their search the Inspector
hand-delivered a letter to the proprietors stating that their business
License would be suspended immediately. The Inspector is quoting from a
section of the Municipal Act which only requires that "in the opinion of
the official" a municipal bylaw has been broken. The only chance for appeal
would be at the "In Camera" City Council meeting on Monday, October 27, at
4:30pm. There is a rally scheduled outside of City Hall for 4:20pm that
day. The Holy Smoke partners are also asking for supporters to send letters
and make telephone calls to City Councilors, Mayor Exner, City Clerk Marla
Olson, and License Inspector Steve Cannon c/o Nelson City Hall, 502 Vernon
St., Nelson, BC, V1L 4E8, Tel. (250)352-5511, Fax (250)352-2131, Email
The original Holy Smoke Culture Shop opened in October 1996 with a modest
inventory of pipes, papers, books, and T-shirts. It was located across the
hall from Narcotics Anonymous. The space became too small too fast so the
store moved to a larger, more central location. After thousands of dollars
in renovations, in March of 1997, the shop opened at it’s new location for
retail sales while construction continues towards creation of the
Psychedeli. Although the Psychedeli is still under construction the extra
space and tables have made it possible for a cafe-type atmosphere to
evolve. Holy Smoke is planning on providing public Internet access and has
installed 2 phone lines, a 486 computer, and a printer/fax/copier. These
tools transformed Holy Smoke into somewhat of an activists center with the
watershed logging protests that were taking place in the Slocan Valley this
summer. Partner Dustin Sunflower was arrested this summer while locked to a
tree and another Nelson businessman.
The Holy Smoke proprietors are long-time activists with serious commitment
to the cause of cannabis decriminalization, harm reduction and
compassionate use. The partners plan to contest every aspect of the raid
and the new Controlled Drugs and Substances Act all the way to the highest
court in the land. "The store is more of a political statement than a
business for me" says DeFelice, who has defended himself and raised
constitutional arguments in court before. "It’s time that we leave the dark
ages behind us and start treating cannabis with the respect it deserves."
Holy Smoke Partner Alan Middlemiss was a part of the Manitoba Hemp Alliance
that in 1995 obtained Manitoba’s first hemp License in 80 years. The
Alliance finally harvested over 100 tons of hemp that year. "It’s the
ultimate irony that after being involved with harvesting over 100 tons of
legal hemp, working closely with Health Canada and the Bureau of Dangerous
Drugs, that I am arrested for less than 1 gram of cannabis on my person"
Holy Smoke has a strictly enforced and posted policy of selling smoking
accessories to adults only and allowing only adults to smoke anything in
the store. So it was much to the owners’ surprise and chagrin that the
License Inspector has accused them of somehow endangering the health and
safety of a person under 16 years of age. "I truly believe that smoking is
adult behavior and should not be allowed for minors. The only conceivable
exception might be if there was guardian approval" stated DeFelice. "We
have had trouble in the past with certain youths being disrespectful and
disobeying our rules but we’ve acted swiftly in every case to evict the
person as soon as we’re aware of any inappropriate behavior."
For now Holy Smoke plans to stay open at least until their lawyers have a
chance to advise them otherwise.
Contact: Paul DeFelice, Partner
tel (250)352-9477; fax (250)352-6682; email [email protected]
[x: This is the frontpage story from the Nelson Daily News. Thanks anonymous sender 😉 ]
October 16, 1997
By Lara Schroeder
Nelson’s Holy Smoke Culture Shop was closed down exactly a year after it first opened when it’s owners and a customer were arrested for possession of marijuana yesterday.
Alan Middlemiss and Dustin "Sunflower" Cantwell were arrested just after noon as they were opening the store for its first anniversary.
Middlemiss walked into the store, located in an alley just off War Street, and was greeted by undercover police detective Howie Grant, he said.
"He says, ‘Good morning, Mr. Middlemiss, you’re under arrest,’ and I said, ‘What for?’ and he said, ‘Possession of narcotics,’" Middlemiss said.
"I think they found out about an ounce."
A customer in the shop was also arrested and Paul DeFelice, the third owner of the store, was told to expect a summons.
Later in the afternoon Steve Cannon , the city’s building inspector, came and notified the owners that their business License had been suspended, according to Middlemiss. On October 27 the Holy Smoke owners are invited to appear before an in camera session at city hall, where council will be asked to revoke their License.
"That’s what they came for." charged Middlemiss. "They found a small amount of cannabis and that’s what they did."
City clerk Marla Olson who was contracted by the Nelson Daily News, denied any knowledge of the Holy Smoke bust and said she would know if the city had revoked the culture shop’s License.
But later in the day, Nelson City Police Sgt. Dan Mulat confirmed that the city had suspended the Holy Smoke business License.
But later in the day Nelson City Police Sgt. Dan Maluta confirmed that the city had suspended the Holy Smoke business License.
The police let the city know that from what they saw, a by-law was being broken, Maluta said.
"We passed on information on to the city and they acted as they saw fit."
The three owners of the sore are expected to be charged with Possesstoin for the Purpose of Trafficking, Maluta said.
In addition to marijuana there was a quantity of what police believe to be hallucinogenic mushrooms at the store.
"The packaging was consistent with possession for the purpose of trafficking." Maluta said, adding that the drugs hadn’t been weighed yet so he couldn’t say how much was found.
Police arrest Middlemiss and Cantwell around 12:15 pm. and locked the doors of the store and stood guard until a search warrant was issued and executed at about 2:55 p.m. according to Maluta.
"It’s not that unusual," Maluta said. "It’s basically to secure the premises until the warrant is obtained."
Contaminated drug paraphernalia and components of a small grow operation were also seized at the store, police said.
Police have received complaints from the public about Holy Smoke.
"We have had more than one complaint, yes. Numerous complaints is accurate," Maluta said.
The police acted on information received over the last couple of weeks and it was purely coincidence that it came on the first anniversary of the shop’s opening, Maluta added.
DeFelice said a first anniversary dance planned at Queen’s Bay was going ahead last night.
A concert, camping and a hemp seed pancake breakfast were planned.
"Now it’s our one year anniversary bust celebration," DeFelice joked.
Middlemiss will be pleading not guilty and fighting what he calls "unjust cannabis laws."
"Mature adults should have the right to take a risk analysis for things that they consume," Middlemiss said.
That doesn’t include "hard drugs," he added, but there is no proof that marijuana has long term health affects, according to Middlemiss.
He also said there should be controls in place and cannabis shouldn’t be completely legalized.
"Trafficking is still going to be illegal, importing is still going to be illegal," he said.
It simply shouldn’t be illegal to own small amounts of pot, according to Middlemiss.
"If somebody gets caught with a joint when they’re 20 years old, I don’t think they should (get a criminal record and) not be allowed to be a teacher when they’re 40 years old."
October 23, 1997 – [x : This article along with the letter that follows was faxed to us from the good folks at Holy Smoke]
By Bob Hall
After lengthy discussion over the Holy Smoke Culture Shop business License Monday, Mayor Gary Exner says a council decision will be handed down sometime today.
Nelson City Council met behind closed doors Monday afternoon to hear from the owners of Holy Smoke and Nelson City Police. At stake is the shop’s business License which is in jeopardy after the owners allegedly violated the municipal act by allowing a person under the age of 16 to smoke on the premises.
Nelson City Police temporarily closed the Herridge Lane shop October 15, but reopened five days later.
"It’s not an easy issue, I don’t think it’s really a division," Exner said on the mood around the council table. "It’s just a very complex issue so we want to make sure that we have reviewed all the facts before us before we come away with a decision."
After the regular meeting of council, councillors again entered an in-camera session to discuss the issue.
Alan Middlemiss, on of the owners of Holy Smoke, said there is no evidence to support the Nelson City Police claim that they were in violation of the municipal act.
"The accusation that we allowed people under the age 16 to smoke on the premises has absolutely no backing and no meat," Middlemiss said after the afternoon meeting with council. "We’ve never allowed anyone under the age of 16 to smoke there, let alone to buy any smoking accessories."
Holy Smoke sells a variety of marijuana and non-marijuana related items including pipes, rolling papers, books, magazine, crafts and hemp clothing.
Middlemiss and his partners are confident the decision will swing in their favor and when it does there are plans for expansion.
"When we get confirmation that our License is going to be reinstated we are going to open a small Amsterdam-style tea house and vegetarian restaurant and carry on with the retail," said Middlemiss.
If the city does decide to allow business as usual at Holy Smoke, partner Paul DeFelice said it will probably boost sales.
"There is no bad publicity for a business like ours," said DeFelice. "If a business survives thing like this, it usually prospers . . . and I think we’re going to survive it."
If the City does not rule in favor of Holy Smoke, the groups Vancouver lawyer Brent Lokash said there is a strong chance that the decision could be challenged.
Holy Smoke Culture Shop
422 Herrige Lane, Nelson, BC, Canada V1L 6G2
Email : [email protected]
We just received news that our business license has been reinstated and that the City of Nelson will review the issue pending the investigation of our criminal charges. Brent Lokash’s legal help was crucial in showing the council that we were serious about keeping in business, even pursuing this matter in court. Your help in getting, and financing, a lawyer really boosted our spirits giving us the strength to see it to the end. We are very familiar with the excellent work you’ve been doing to change the laws regarding cannabis and have always felt that the only way to do it is jump right in, Hi Ho Shiva!!!! The breath of winter in the wind reminds me that I have to get the fire wood in. The battle has settled for a moment and now we have to concentrate on business, paying bills and surviving. We are going to have a few fund raisers to raise some money and puff on!!
Thanks again for your help,
From jobless to jah-bless
Holy Smokers (Alan, Paul, Dustin)