Cannabis in the Courts

Cannabis Canadians across the nation,
fighting the law on its own terms.

Cannabis in the Courts

By Dana Larsen

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Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor,Granby Hemp Co-op…growing hemp

In July of 1995 Brian Taylor of Grand Forks, BC, was charged with possession and cultivation of marijuana. The plants in question were actually low THC industrial grade cannabis hemp, which Brian had planted to form the shape of the word “hemp” on his front lawn, in plain view of the nearby road. Charges were formally laid on December 24th, Christmas Eve.

Brian had been expecting the police. He had already sent them leaves and stalks from his crop, as well as sending similar packages to the Ministry of Health and other official institutions.

Brian began his illegal hemp plantation when he learned that the Granby Hemp Co-op was to be denied a licence to grow agricultural hemp. Since they had been led to believe that they would receive a licence they had gone so far as to import 320 kg of hemp seed. The seed was confiscated by Canada Customs and eventually destroyed, despite offers from the BC Provincial Government to store the seed for the Co-op until this year.

Since cultivation of cannabis is an indictable offence, Brian will have the option of trial by jury. He is confident that there are no twelve people in his community who would convict him for growing hemp. As Brian explained to me in a 1995 interview, “the Russian community makes up about a third of the population, and they grew hemp in Russia and brought it to this valley. Since the local sawmill has been reducing the number of shifts and may eventually close down, hemp has won the support of local politicians and volunteers as one of the answers to our economic recovery.”

Although Brian is an active member of the Granby Hemp Co-op, his hemp plantation was a strictly personal affair, and he didn’t expect his actions would have a negative impact on the Granby Hemp Co-op’s chances of succesfully applying for a licence this year.

Although Brian told me that the Co-op initially hoped to work more closely with representatives from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, he explained that the Co-op is nevertheless taking legal action against the BC Ministry of Agriculture for allowing their seeds to be destroyed by Canada Customs without due process.

Brian’s preliminary hearing is set for August 22. He plans to argue that the cannabis which he was growing was hemp, and contained such a small amount of THC that it is not actually prohibited by the Narcotic Control Act. Brian asks that all interested Canadians come to the preliminary hearing, and he will provide free camping on the six acres of space available at the Grand Forks Yacht Club. He guarantees “music and fun,” and recommends that you bring your drum.

In an effort to raise money for his upcoming court case, Brian Taylor has been selling buttons which are each made with a real cannabis leaf. These buttons should be available at your local hempstore.

For more information call Brian Taylor at (604) 442-5166.

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Chris Clay

Chris Clay, Hemp Nation…selling clones

On May 17, 1995, Chris Clay was arrested and charged with cultivation of a narcotic, possession of a narcotic for the purposes of trafficking, and trafficking in a narcotic. These charges were laid because Chris had twenty tiny marijuana plants on display for sale in his store in London, Ontario. He had sold only four of the tiny clones in the few hours since he had bought them, but the London police and the RCMP felt it necessary to stop him, and seized over $30,000 in pipes and other merchandise from his store while they were at it.

His house was also raided and ransacked, and some friends who were staying with him were arrested, handcuffed, and fingerprinted before finally being released.

Chris had his preliminary hearing on February 23, but his trial won’t begin until at least October, and possibly not until next year.

The analyst who was at the preliminary hearing testified that he did not test the confiscated seedlings for levels of THC, and also explained that a hemp shirt that he had once tested was technically a narcotic. The police testified they hadn’t charged Chris earlier because of the high-profile nature of the store.

Chris is being represented by lawyers Alan Young and Paul Burstein, two lawyers who helped Umberto Iorfida of NORML Canada to succesfully fight Section 462.2 of the Criminal Code, which banned all marijuana or drug related literature and advocacy.

Alan and Paul hope to use this trial as an opportunity to promote public education and awareness about marijuana prohibition. They intend on calling on an “impressive list” of experts from around the world, ranging from “theologians to botanists to law reformers,” to explain the many ways in which the prohibition of marijuana plants is illegal, immoral, and counter-productive.

Chris is still desperately trying to raise money. His fund raising efforts have brought in about $6,000 so far, which is a far cry from the $50,000 that he expects it will take to do this properly. Chris explained that he’s still not quite out of debt since being charged, and that the whole thing has been a frustrating experience. Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to his days in court.

For more information, contact Chris Clay at Hemp Nation at (519) 433-5267

email: [email protected]

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Marc Emery

Marc Emery, Hemp BC…selling seeds

On January 4, 1996, Vancouver Police simultaneously raided both the Hemp BC storefront and the shared office space of Hemp BC and Cannabis Canada. Owner Marc Emery was arrested, and spent the night in jail, along with three of his Hemp BC employees. About half of the confiscated stock was in the form of marijuana seeds, the other half being mostly pipes and bongs. Also seized were computer disks with back issues of Cannabis Canada, which have still not yet been returned.

Charges against the employees have been dropped, but Marc will be tried by a jury of of his peers in November. He faces eight counts of trafficking in cannabis and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, yet all of the charges relate to the sale of marijuana seeds only.

Marc is the first Canadian to have been charged with trafficking marijauna in the form of seeds, and so the outcome of this trial will set a precedent for the way in which selling marijuana seeds is viewed by the Canadian judicial system.

Despite the nine counts against him and the potential life sentence he faces as a trafficker in marijuana, Marc has no intentions of stopping the sale of seeds. Other seed merchants have followed his lead and are now advertising with us and openly selling their controversial product across the country.

Although no charges have been laid against Marc for selling paraphernalia in violation of Section 462.2, the police are still holding all of the pipes, vapourizers, and other smoking implements which they confiscated. It is likely that these items will soon be returned to Hemp BC, which would be a strong indication that Section 462.2 will no longer be enforced at all in Vancouver.

For more information, contact Marc Emery at Hemp BC, at (604) 669-9052.

email: [email protected]

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Ken Venema

Ken Venema, Kaiyun…selling pipes

On December 14, 1995, the Ontario Provincial Police raided a store in Thunder Bay called Kaiyun. Over $5000 of merchandise was seized by police, and owner Ken Venema was charged with selling “instruments for illicit drug use contrary to section 462.2 of the Criminal Code.” Although Ken’s business was severly damaged, he has continued to stay open.

On January 11 the same two officers who busted Kaiyun went into “The Cockeyed Caterpillar,” which opened up about a week before Kaiyun was raided, and was Thunder Bay’s only other outlet for pipes and bongs. Police charged owner Jeremy Simons with violation of section 462.2, and sezied about $2500 of goods. This was enough to put an end to Jeremy’s fledgling store.

This isn’t the first time that Kaiyun has suffered at the hands of official agencies. In March of 1995, Ken Venema had a shipment of pipes from the US seized by Canada Customs, who turned it over to the RCMP for classification.

Ken finally launched a formal complaint against the RCMP, and in September he had an RCMP officer come into his store with a three month old letter, notifying him that his possessions had been deemed to be in violation of section 462.2, and had been destroyed.

Both Ken and Jeremy have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Since the offence is not indictable, they have no right to a pretrial hearing or a trial by jury. If either one of them gets the wrong judge they could easily spend a few months in jail and lose their life savings.

The original date for Ken’s trial was July 4, 1996, but will be postponed to a later date which had not yet been decided as this issue went to press. Jeremy’s trial date is also in the process of being set.

For more information, contact Ken Venema of Kaiyun, at: (807) 345-1149.

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