Hemp BC vs City Council
Vancouver city officials continue to attack Hemp BC, Canada’s foremost hemp store. After raiding the store repeatedly and beating those who protested the raid, after ongoing harassment and intimidation of customers, it might seem like the city has exhausted its means of attacking the store. But it hadn’t.
Sister Icee, present owner of Hemp BC, has been waiting for a business license which she was promised months ago, in exchange for an agreement not to promote paraphernalia in the windows of Hemp BC.
The city stalled with the false excuse that Icee had “drug” charges against her, as a result of a raid on September 30, 1998 (see CC #16). Her only charges were actually for the promotion and sale of “illicit drug paraphernalia,” and not actual drug charges at all. Sister Icee quickly launched a defamation suit against the city for this and other misinformed public statements.
US Navy in Vancouver
The September raid had been partially justified by “operation intruder” ? an earlier conspiracy between Vancouver Police and the US Navy, to smoke marijuana in the Hemp BC’s companion Cannabis Cafe on April 30, 1998.
This pathetic and failed effort to buy pot at the Cannabis Cafe was so poorly planned that they did not acquire the necessary government authorization to purchase or smoke marijuana. Since Vancouver Police Officer Mark Bragagnola and US Marine Stacy Sherman both admitted to having bought pot on the street and smoked it in the Cannabis Cafe, Icee’s lawyers filed charges of marijuana possession against them, but the Justice of the Peace conveniently decided not to pursue those charges in court.
City Hall’s kangaroo court
Meanwhile, the proceedings against Hemp BC continued. The city set a date to dispatch Sister Icee once and for all. A city council “hearing” was called, but it seemed that the outcome had already been decided.
“Hemp BC will be toast?” said Mayor Owen in an interview with the New York Times.
Sister Icee fought back with a Supreme Court injunction against the proceedings. In what appeared to be a show of good faith on the part of the city, Icee’s and the city’s lawyers reached a deal. The hearing would continue, but it would focus only on matters directly concerning the business license, not on 462.2 charges against Icee. Additionally, Mayor Owen dismissed himself as chair of city hearings into Hemp BC’s application for a business license because of his obvious bias. But it was all a ruse.
On December 8, 1998, the first date of the hearing, city council was ready to make a decision even before Icee arrived. Deputy Mayor George Puil was hand-picked to tow Philip Owen’s political line against Hemp BC. Despite the Supreme Court agreement, every councillor had been provided with a binder full of information relating to 462.2 charges against Sister Icee and other charges against the store’s former owner, Marc Emery.
As the hearing progressed, the city’s demonstration of bad faith continued. While questioning the city license inspector, city lawyer John Nelson repeatedly made reference to charges against Emery and Sister Icee. Although Sister Icee’s lawyers objected, Deputy Mayor George Puil rudely brushed aside the objections and continued with the proceedings.
In the galleries, onlookers grumbled and shouted about the city’s duplicity. Two city councillors, Nancy Chiavario and Alan Herber, also commented on the impropriety of the hearing. When the day had ended, Puil announced that the hearings would continue on December 10, despite an agreement that they would continue on January 26, 1999.
“I’ll hold the hearings on Christmas Day if I have to,” said Puil, ” and I don’t care who can come.”
The next day, the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers roundly condemned Deputy Mayor Puil’s blatant violation of deals made with Hemp BC in Supreme Court.
On December 10, the slander against Hemp BC in city council accelerated. It seemed Puil intended to push for an injunction against the store despite long-forgotten deals made in Supreme Court. One officer, Constable Jones, claimed that a body found in a dumpster down the block from Hemp BC a week and a half before the hearing was somehow the result of the store’s presence in the area.
Despite continued slander against Hemp BC, however, Puil held back from concluding the proceedings on Christmas, and deferred them until January 26, 1999. Perhaps he was influenced by the reaction of media the day before.
Other Hemp Store Updates
? Chris Clay, owner of the famous “Hemp Nation”, Canada’s first hemp store in London, Ontario is appealing his case (see CC #10) at the Ontario Court of Appeal (OCA). It is likely that the crown will appeal any decision made at the Ontario court, and Clay’s final challenge of Canada’s drug laws will be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada. Clay’s trial will be combined at the OCA with Terry Parker’s case, which is presently being appealed by the crown.
“Terry Parker’s council, Aaron Harnett, and my lawyer, Alan Young, wanted to combine the two cases, but the crown objected,” says Clay. “Still, the judge said in November that they would be combined. My lawyer said that the three judges at the court of appeal might still rule in favour of Terry and against me.”
? Holy Smoke, a hemp shop in Nelson, BC, is no longer a part of a class action suit against the city of Nelson, which charged them an unusually high fee of $1000 per year for a business license (see Holy Smoke and the bottom of this article in CC#16). On October 29, 1998, a judge ruled that the $1000 fee was actually two $500 fees, and thus permissible by provincial law, which stipulates a $500 maximum business license charge. Dustin Cantwell, one of the owners of Holy Smoke, says that he plans to continue challenging the license fee anyway, on the basis that it is discriminatory.
“The mayor [of Nelson]has said that our business is ‘undesirable’. You cannot base a license fee on desirability,” asserts Cantwell.
Charges of possession and possession for the purpose of trafficking in mushrooms, as well as charges of possession of marijuana have been dropped against the store’s three owners. They now must defend themselves on March 8, 1999 against charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking in marijuana.
“Grounds for the search provided to the JP were totally straw,” says Cantwell, “all opinion and bias galore.”
? Will hemp store owners get back all the stuff seized by police during raids on their stores? On November 17, 1998 Mike Spindloe of the Vinyl Exchange faced charges stemming from a May, 1997 raid on his store (see CC #13). He received a $1,000 fine. Although he was found guilty of violating 462.2 by selling “illicit drug paraphernalia,” the judge ordered that the police return the bongs and pipes they had confiscated from him. According to the judge, 462.2 only makes it illegal to sell bongs and pipes, but not to possess them. Spindloe has filed for an appeal and has still to receive his inventory of smoking accessories back from local police.
Busted Up Dates
? David Malmo-Levine continues to fight for an accurate and just representation of his cause in the courts and press. On December 10, 1998, Malmo-Levine faced charges for operating the second of two marijuana buyers clubs. Malmo-Levine was sentenced to one year for trafficking and one year for possession, to be served “in the community.” As conditions of his community-served sentence, BC Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Smith said that Malmo-Levine was to get a job and not possess marijuana.
Various authorities and some members of the public had slandered Malmo-Levine with claims that he made $100,000 selling marijuana to children. The local media repeated the baseless slander.
“We had 1600 members,” states Malmo-Levine. “Only five were teens ? all of which had helped us obtain their parents written and face to face permission. To not pass this information along with the baseless accusations of the parents is mean, dirty, low, unprofessional and libellous.”
David Malmo-Levine plans to appeal the court’s decision.
? On April 30, 1998, Randy Caine was denied a constitutional appeal of marijuana laws in Canada. Judge Howard cited the David Malmo-Levine case, in which the judge ruled that the Charter of Rights did not protect marijuana smokers. Caine had been caught in possession of a roach in 1993, and his constitutional appeal has the potential to make history by forever changing Canadian marijuana laws.
Caine was in court again on November 12, asking Judge Thackery to overturn Howard’s ruling. Judge Thackery refused, citing the David Malmo-Levine case.
“Every time I go to court,” says Caine, “my case has already been heard. The judge quotes the ‘Hansard Stewart Mills’ ruling which permits a judge not to overturn the decision of a brother or sister judge at the same level. They could [overturn the Malmo-Levine decision]but they can quote this thing and avoid it.”
Now Caine has another chance to change marijuana laws. He will argue before the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) that he should be allowed to proceed to Supreme Court and argue that marijuana laws are unconstitutional.
“Our hope is that at the Court of Appeal we can leap frog Malmo-Levine,” said Caine.
If Caine is denied a constitutional appeal by the BCCA, he and his lawyer, John Conroy, plan to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
? The trials of Ken Kirk, Edmonton’s Pope of the Reformed Druids, multiple sclerosis sufferer and medical marijuana advocate, continue. Kirk pled guilty to two counts of trafficking and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking in marijuana, after police violently raided his home on January 20, 1998. He was sentenced to five months in jail.
“He is being treated very cruelly in jail,” says Amy von Stackelburg, his partner. “He’s having constant seizures and with all the hard places to hit your head in jail?”
While in jail, Kirk is being forced to take a pharmaceutical drug instead of marijuana. According to Stackelburg, the drug Kirk is forced to take is infamous for turning people into walking zombies.
Contact one or more of the following people and offer your moral and/or financial support. They will appreciate it:
Marc Emery of Emery’s Direct Seed Sales: (604) 681-4690; [email protected]
Sister Icee of Hemp BC: (604) 681-4620; [email protected]
Randy Caine of The Canadian Action Coalition: (604) 870-8877; [email protected]
Chris Clay: [email protected]
Karen Watson of the Amsterdam Cafe: (604) 683-7200; mailto:[email protected]
Mike Spindloe of the Vinyl Exchange: (306) 244-7090
Amy von Stackelburg, Ken Kirk’s partner: (403) 425-2581; mailto:[email protected]
John Conroy, cannabis case lawyer: (604) 852-5110; [email protected]
Dustin Cantwell of Holy Smoke: (250) 352-9477; [email protected]