Hemp Store Staff Charged With Selling Marijuana Seeds
Vancouver Sun, 5 January 1996
Vancouver police raided the Hemp BC store on Hastings on Thursday andcharged the owner and two employees with selling marijuana seeds.
It is the first time in Vancouver history that trafficking charges havebeen laid for selling seeds, Const. Anne Drennan said.
“This is uncharted territory for us”, she said. Police expect store ownerMarc Emery, a marijuana advocate, to conduct a very public court challenge,she added.
Why did it take police so long to bust the store, which has been sellingthe seeds for the last 19 months?
Police needed to grow the seeds into marijuana plants and make lab testsbefore they could make a bust, Drennan said, and the first seeds boughtmonths ago by undercover officers proved to be duds. “The seeds didn’tgrow at all”, Drennan explained to reporters and a number of Hemp BCsupporters gathered outside the store.
“Bad farmers”, observed one marijuana supporter. “Bad gardeners”,said another.
“You were growing marijuana yourself?” another supporter askedDrennan. “I’m just making a press statement – back off“, Drennantold the young man with dreadlocks.
“We’ve since made other purchases and the seeds have grown very well”,Drennan continued, telling reporters that the plants tested positive forTHC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
Plainclothes officers seized seeds and drug paraphernalia – mainly pipesused for smoking marijuana – from the store at 324 West Hastings, and thatincluded the infamous Toke-O-Matic machine that had been featured in TheVancouver Sun. Subsequent publicity came from as far afield as TheWashington Post and the TV program 60 Minutes.
Drennan admitted the constant publicity kept the store in the minds ofpolice and the order to bust the store came from senior levels of theforce.
“The decision came from the top“, she said, noting Chief Ray Canueland Deputy Chief Rich Rollins were aware of the search warrants before theywere executed on the store and the Hemp BC warehouse at 21 Water St.
Emery and his 16-year-old son were both arrested but his son was laterreleased. Emery, 37, is charged with trafficking marijuana seeds andselling instruments and paraphernalia for illicit drug use. He waspreviously arrested in Ontario, where he made headlines as a bookstoreowner who defied the law prohibiting Sunday store openings.
The two Hemp BC employees charged with trafficking were Jason Arthur Copps,24, and Jeremie Jacques Williams, 22, both of Vancouver.
Drennan said the bust had nothing to do with the fact Emery had beenfeatured in a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal in December.The story called Emery a pot seed merchant who sold 130,000 seeds last year.Hemp BC sold seeds with such brand names as Mighty Mite, Northern Lights,Purple Spike, and Texada Time Warp, at up to $5 each. Emery said he expectedhis store would gross $3 million and sell 500,000 seeds this year.
BC’s hydroponically grown marijuana is considered the best in the world,although one BC strain only ranked third at the recent Cannabis Cupcompetition in Amsterdam.
Pot is considered one of BC’s largest cash crops and is exported to the US,where it fetches about $4,500 US a pound.
Vancouver criminologist Neil Boyd, a vocal critic of Canada’s marijuanalaw, said it was bizarre that police went to the trouble of growing seedsto test in the crime lab.
“Why bother? It doesn’t make good sense with scant police resources”, hesaid. “The police are very much out of step with the public mood on thisissue.“
Alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous drugs, he said, and trying toprosecute someone for trafficking marijuana seeds reflects an outdatedmorality.
“Most people don’t care anymore about marijuana”, Boyd added. He estimatedlegalizing marijuana would bring in up to $200 million a year in tax revenue.
Former New Democratic Party MP Jim Fulton, now executive director of theDavid Suzuki Foundation, introduced a private member’s bill in the Houseof Commons in 1993 to decriminalize marijuana. The bill went nowhere.
Fulton is an advocate of hemp, the industrial-grade version of themarijuana plant that is now legal to grow in Spain, France, and Britain toproduce paper and clothing products.