Deep in the catacombs of the offices of injustice, bent figures scribble up warrants and fabricate schemes, scratching around in the shadows of their self-forged ignorance.
“Police don’t need to have a legitimate reason to bust a hemp store owner,” says Marc Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture. “When they want to harass you they just make something up.”
Emery should know, he was forced to sell Hemp BC and the Cannabis Cafe as a result of persistent police harassment, and he continues to be persecuted with illegitimate search warrants and arrests. Other hemp store owners report strikingly similar experiences: success in the court of public opinion brings trouble in the courts of law; selling seeds breeds unease in the minds of police.
In our last issue of Cannabis Culture, we reported that American tourists, busted at the border for possession of a half gram of hashish, had claimed that the hash had been a gift from Marc Emery.
Two months later, in March of this year, after Emery was featured in a mainstream American television program, Vancouver Police created an arrest warrant based on the tourists’ testimony. Emery was charged with trafficking.
Unofficially, the arrest was fuelled by pressure from South of the border. Officially, the warrant was an unveiled and unconstitutional attempt to single out Emery, because of his influence on public opinion.
“In the police discovery,” Emery remembers, “they noted that ‘although it is a small amount and would normally go without notice, since Marc Emery has turned Vancouver into a virtual Sodom and Gomorrah of dangerous drug use, he must be prosecuted.'”
Police are so interested in persecuting Emery that they are actually paying to fly the finger-pointing tourists from the United States to Vancouver to testify against him.
“Vancouver Police are paying twice,” notes Emery. “The tourists have to come to the preliminary hearing, as well.”
Selling Sacred Herb
Ian Hunter, a Reverend of the Church of the Universe and owner of the Sacred Herb in Victoria BC, has also been harassed on the pretense of “marijuana trafficking.”
Like his former business partner Emery, Reverend Hunter is politically active, supporting antiprohibitionism in Victoria city politics. But the final hemp straw which broke the back of government tolerance may have been the recent rave Hunter organized at the Victoria Legislature buildings, in support of the “Global Days Against the Drug War.” Not only was it well attended, the music could be heard halfway across the city.
Hunter’s style has raised the ire of the local police, who argued at a recent city council meeting that Hunter’s business license should be removed because one of his employees sold some pot on Sacred Herb premises some time ago. Police also mentioned Hunter’s “criminal” record for marijuana offences.
“I am becoming effective publicly,” says Hunter, “so this is how they are getting rid of me, because they have no other way of doing it.
“It looked like we would win,” continues Hunter, “because the police hardly presented a case. But they didn’t need to because they had already won. It seemed to be preordained. Councillors seemed to have their votes figured out beforehand.”
Reverend Hunter has not given up. He plans to mount a judicial review of the process that lost him his license. He has sold his store to an employee-owned corporation, and is focussing his efforts on religious activism, through his Mission of Ecstacy, and on working with the BC Hemp Council.
Hunter also retains his optimism. “The good news is that the store will survive.” The new owners have already received a business license.
When Marc Emery sold Hemp BC to his manager, Sister Icee (aka Shelley Francis) on March 8, many thought that the hemp store’s troubles might well be over. But, as we reported in our last issue, Sister Icee faced the wrath of the police only weeks after taking over, when they raided her store on April 30. They raided Cannabis Culture Magazine that same day.
After the raid, Sister Icee launched a lawsuit against the city for defamation and for damages to her store during the illegitimate bust. The warrant police used to raid her store listed Marc Emery as the owner, and was supposedly conducted for the purpose of collecting evidence against Emery for an upcoming court case.
On June 19, almost 2 months after the raid on her store, Sister Icee was charged with 3 counts of violating 462.2.
“They’re only doing this so they can deny me my business license,” she says, “I didn’t have a record before, and they’re going to make sure I have one, so they can say ‘no’.” The city used the same excuse to deny Marc Emery a business license for Hemp BC, forcing him to sell.
Like Hunter, Icee remains confident. “I totally feel like we’re going all the way with it,” she says, “I think we’re winning. I think they’re grasping at straws. I also think it’s a ridiculous waste of our resources and tax dollars and court time.”
If anything attracts police attention as much as political effectiveness, it is spreading the seeds of cannabis culture ? literally spreading the seeds, by selling potent marijuana genes to anyone with the bucks to buy.
More than just an effective spokesperson for the marijuana community, Marc Emery is the founding father of marijuana seed sales in Canada. He estimates that the pot grown from seeds he’s sold is enough to completely replace the amount seized by police each year. The police have not failed to notice this, and charged Emery back in January of 1996. His case will finally go to trial in April of 1999, with a full week set aside for a jury trial.
Although the possible sentence he faces is severe, Emery prophesies victory. For one thing, the crown prosecutor must prove that the seeds Emery was selling were viable.
Emery explains: “The government botanist told the court that ‘viability’ means a seed can germinate, grow, become a fully mature plant, and then reproduce. The crown only proved that one seed could reproduce, I think one plant was accidentally pollinated in the lab.”
Like Marc Emery, Vancouver’s Amsterdam Cafe and hemp store (around the corner from Hemp BC) has sold seeds. They’ve received attention from mainstream American media, and they have also been repeatedly harassed.
The first raid on the Amsterdam occurred on May 15. Police seized pipes, bongs and seeds from the store. In typical gestapo style, police took the names of both employees and patrons during their two and a half hour occupation of the premises.
The second raid occurred only a month later, on June 18.
“They definitely came for the seeds,” said Sita Windheim, one of the store’s owners. “I feel that we’re being harassed. I think we’re easy targets because we are so open and up front about what we do.”
Police thoroughly searched the premises for the tiny grains of potential high life. They also took money that was kept in the back of the store.
Sita speculates that the raids may also have something to do with their landlord.
“He circulated a petition among our neighbours and his other tenants against us. Apparently the landlord has a friend in the police department.”
Police raids like the one on The Amsterdam damage the lives of families.
“I’m a single mother and I’ve got two kids at home.” says Sita, “I’m working harder than I ever have and the police come in and destroy it all in five minutes.”
During the December 16, 1997 raid on Hemp BC, when Marc Emery still owned the store, police officers roughed up members of a large crowd of protesters who had gathered outside. Emery, disgusted by uniformed police beating and macing harmless protesters, spat in one officer’s face. He was charged with “assaulting an officer.”
“In my opinion,” says Emery, “harm should include some sort of force, some damage to the body. There’s no law against disrespecting a uniform. If the officer was asked what he was doing for the 60 seconds before he noticed spittle on himself, he would say ‘putting the boots to someone.’ Yet he doesn’t consider that assault.”
Other “crimes” committed by Emery include distributing information to the public about attempts by international pharmaceutical companies to ban herbs for public sale. At a community centre in Vancouver, a public building, Emery was handing out flyers on the subject. When asked by a community centre employee to leave, Emery refused. The employee called the police, who handcuffed Emery and took him away. According to police at the time, there were no charges laid.
“The funny thing is that I wasn’t even giving out information about marijuana that day? it was all about herbs. It was my understanding that anyone has a right to give out information on public property without any permission whatsoever.”
The day of the raid, when he spat on the police officer, Emery was immediately arrested not for the spittle, but for handing out pamphlets months earlier. He was driven to jail in a paddywagon.
As if the other senseless charges against Emery were not enough, he has also been charged with “promoting vapourizers,” because he provided them for use by patrons of the Cannabis Cafe. Vapourizers are harm-reduction devices which greatly reduce the amount of tar inhaled by cannabis users.
“We are promoting clean lungs and health,” Emery explains. “We are promoting a health benefit. We are telling the truth. Unfortunately, in my experience, liberty, justice, facts and logic have no place in a court of law.”
Sickness a Big Game
Ken Kirk uses marijuana to control his epilepsy, and grew a few plants to supply himself with medicine. As Pope of the Reformed Druids, a group which believes prohibition is illegal, he has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of marijuana and hemp. Unfortunately, at 3:30am, January 20, ignorance took the opportunity to strike back, in the form of the Edmonton Police Department.
In “big game” safari style, the police armed themselves with outrageously superior weaponry to hunt an unarmed, peaceful being who was doing nothing but minding his health. It wasn’t enough just to bag their game, however, they also wanted to destroy his home and humiliate him.
First they smashed in his door with a battering ram, then they lobbed in smoke and concussion grenades. The rug and a chair melted, and a chandelier was blown to pieces while white fog filled the room.
Then the Edmonton Police Force stormed in carrying rifles and shouting, “Get the fuck down now! Get the fuck down!”
From his bedroom, Ken Kirk could hear the noise. He and his partner, Amy von Stackelberg, huddled under their covers. The bedroom door was kicked in, and the two were dragged naked from their bed and to the floor.
Kirk was forced to watch while a police officer crushed one boot into Amy’s back, pinning her against the rug. The great hunter had bagged his game, and was now posing, rifle and all, for the traditional conquered-prey photo op.
“When I think of it,” says Kirk, “it makes me more angry than anything I’ve witnessed in my life.”
Kirk quoted his rights as a Canadian. He informed the police that he was using marijuana to control his epilepsy. He recited parts of the Terry Parker Supreme Court ruling. He kept on talking even after a police officer approached him with a threat: “Shut up or I’ll kick in your head!”
Events then took a more sinister turn. The arresting officer, Constable Thomas Farquhar, led them to the living-room and spoke soothingly to Ken and Amy.
“He wanted us to reevaluate our lives because we had been too vocal in the past, too visible,” recounts Kirk. “He said they’d quit busting us and leave us alone if we shut up.”
During the raid the police seized 7 budding pot plants, 3 little clones, and 1/2 oz of dried material from male plants. They also took various personal items and lists of friends’ phone numbers.
“Of course the bust has inspired us to be even more vocal! We have freedom of speech! I believe these intimidation tactics were used in WWII Germany as well,” says Kirk.
The Hindu god of marijuana is Shiva, “destroyer of illusions.” We should all take a toke of thanks to Shiva, the almighty puffer, because it looks as though the forgery of justice that has been sold to the Canadian public may be soon unveiled as a fake.
Police and prosecutors seem to know that anti-marijuana culture laws like 462.2 are weak, and so they try to avoid going to court with their charges, preferring instead to harass stores and seize goods without risking trial.
In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 462.2 literature charges were dropped against Mike Spindloe of the Vinyl Exchange, although he must still defend himself on paraphernalia charges resulting from the raid on his store in May 1997.
For the very first time ever, 462.2 paraphernalia charges against a hemp store owner have been withdrawn. Police in Stratford, Ontario, gave back to Buffy Blue of Buffy’s Hemp Store the pipes, bongs, rollies and other paraphernalia that they had seized from her store during a raid in March 1998. They also withdrew possession charges for the .2 of a gram of marijuana they found on Ms Blue’s person during the raid.
“They withdrew the charges and I got all my stuff back,” says Blue, “except four pipes, a bunch of papers and a glass bowl.”
But victory over our deceitful drug laws requires constant vigilance. Police continue to use whatever tactics they can to oppress the cannabis community.
Right now, the Supreme Court of Canada is hearing an appeal by government lawyers to allow teachers to detain and search students with even more impunity than police officers. The case revolves around a high school student who was caught selling marijuana.
And Sonny Krumm, who ? as we reported last issue ? lost his mother when police harassed her on her death bed during a raid on Sonny’s medicinal marijuana operation, is now being charged with cultivation.
So while we are giving thanks we must also remain vigilant. Attend rallies, offer whatever assistance you can to the many victims of the drug war, write letters to the editors of local newspapers, get involved. Because the next door that gets kicked in might be yours.
Contact one or more of the following people and offer your moral and/or financial support. They will appreciate it.
Marc Emery, Publisher of Cannabis Culture: (604) 669-4690.
Sister Icee of Sister Icee’s Hemp BC and the Cannabis Cafe: (604) 681-4620.
Buffy Blue of Buffy’s: (519) 272-1998.
Ian Hunter of the Sacred Herb: (250) 384-0659.
Karen Watson and Sita Windheim of The Amsterdam: (604) 683-7200.
Contact the RCMP Complaints Commission to express your repugnance at deplorable police tactics:
RCMP Complaints: Solicitor General of Canada Public Complaints Commission, 7337 137th St ? Suite 102, Surrey, BC, Canada, V3W 1A4; tel 1-800-665-6879.
If you need a lawyer, the following are considered experts in defending Canadian marijuana charges.
John Conroy: (604) 852-5110.
Alan Young: (416) 736-5595.
Hemp BC Legal Assistance Centre: (604) 669-1832.