The owners of Vancouver’s Amsterdam Cafe, Karen Watson and Sita Windheim are looking for a new venue for their cannabis activism. The Amsterdam was raided for the third time on July 29 (see CC#20, Busted Up Dates) and is facing a number of difficulties which will possibly spell the end of the store.
The chief licensing inspector has informed Watson and Windheim that the licence for their store is under review. A “licence review” is what finally closed Hemp BC and the Cannabis Cafe. Also, the Amsterdam’s lease is up at the end of October, and the landlord is hostile to the store’s continued presence.
“We have a half a dozen things going on that would continue our name and reputation,” says Watson. “We want to get into wholesaling. I want every hemp store in Canada to sell seeds. We had a friend travel across Canada promoting new strains.”
The Amsterdam is also providing funding for issue 15 of David Malmo-Levine’s magazine, Potshots; entering the 1999 Cannabis Cup; and working on opening a larger bed and breakfast from which to provide grow seminars and tours of headshops for tourists.
In early August, Watson and Windheim appeared before a judge. Karen Watson appeared as a result of a warrant for her arrest, and Sita Windheim appeared voluntarily. They were released on their own recognizance and have not yet been charged.
Steve Kubby, the California Libertarian politician busted for medical pot in January, continues to fight for his freedom.
The trial of Steve Kubby and his wife Michele began in January, but was postponed until next year because Michele is pregnant and the stress of the trial endangered her health.
Steve Kubby continues his activism.
“We’re investigating the criminal activities of law enforcement in Placer County, where they keep arresting medical pot users who should be protected under the Prop 215,” he said. “We will hold all government officials accountable for their illegal activities.”
David Malmo Levine, whose constitutional challenge reaches the BC Supreme Court November 17-18, has written an expos? about the activities that encouraged police to arrest him. In October of 1996, he opened a buyer’s club in Vancouver, BC, which was later moved to the smaller neighbouring city of Burnaby. It was eventually run out of business by burglars, police raids and court rulings. Malmo-Levine’s intention was to reduce the harm associated with smoking by providing education and a safe-smoking site.
“Despite the thirteen-year-old age limit,” writes Malmo-Levine, “and despite [the first location]being less than a block away from an elementary school, we had no complaints from the neighbours, the police or even the media. Parents thanked us for providing a safe point of sale to their teens.
“The main hurdle seemed to be the stigma. The drug war is propelled by the same hysteria that all witch hunts are: parental anxiety. Jews, witches, communists, druggies ? all have been called “baby killers”.
David’s message hinges partly on the argument that marijuana is less harmful than many legal, widely-available substances that are commonly used by teens. Like caffeine.
“It’s so unbelievable, most reporters just give up rather than try fact-checking,” Malmo-Levine writes. “And no judge in this country has dared call my bluff and allowed experts to testify to its validity. But it’s true. Caffeine is more of a risk to health than cannabis in every category imaginable.”
In his written piece, Malmo-Levine remembers what inspired him and what frightened him about his pro-pot activism. The times parents came to smoke up with their kids, the media attention, numerous armed robberies that nearly bankrupted his operations, and an armed raid by RCMP officers.
Copies of Malmo-Levine’s writings, or issues of “Potshots”, his magazine-style compilation of articles covering various pot related topics, can be obtained by contacting Malmo-Levine.
? David Malmo-Levine: tel (250) 442-5166; email [email protected]
Church of the Universe
Reverends Michael Baldasaro and Walter Tucker, leaders of the Church of the Universe who believe that cannabis is sacred, continue to make headlines across Canada (See CC#18, Smoking Religiously).
Last summer, the two reverend brothers planned a holy pilgrimage to Clearwater Abbey in Puslinch Township, Ontario, where the church was founded. Church members were evicted from the land in 1986, in a controversial decision that is still under appeal in court today. The pilgrimage was planned for July 17, the church’s birthday.
Reverends Tucker and Baldasaro made an application to enter the land months before the July date, but were turned down by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, who claimed that the land was not open to public access despite the ongoing, daily use of the land by those deemed “special friends” of the local authorities. The reverends contacted Ontario Premier Mike Harris to appeal the decision, and were eventually referred back to the Conservation Authority. Then they decided to bring the matter to court, and began to issue court documents upon those involved, including Premier Harris.
On May 21, the premier was visiting a radio station in Toronto, Ontario, when brothers Tucker and Baldasaro attempted to serve their documents. While on their way to an elevator in the station, the two reverends were physically accosted by 20-30 Metropolitan Police Officers, who arrested the two brothers and held them from entering the building. The brothers note that, under law, they were acting in a legal capacity as officers of the Federal Court. The brothers have filed a complaint of police abuse and obstruction of justice in the Federal Court and with the Toronto Metropolitan police.
The pilgrimage itself was also sabotaged by police. The event had the potential to draw thousands, but when police presence threatened to create violence, the two reverends downscaled the event. Five members, including Reverends Baldasaro and Tucker, made a symbolic trek to the abbey to commemorate the birthday of the church.
“We never made it into Clearwater,” says Tucker. “They had the whole thing barred off. They had police officers all over the place. They had police cars blocking the roads and at every major intersection. They had 20-25 police officers on the property itself. We estimate 40 officers in total.”
Tucker and Baldasaro’s other projects include an attempt to get the City of Hamilton, Ontario to create a clothing-optional beach in the area. The two reverends have long held that nudity is sacred. The church is also gearing up to produce medicinal cannabis for the upcoming clinical trials by the Ministry of Health. They have submitted a business plan, and two grams of potent sacrament as a sample.
Two months after moving to his new location, Mike Ethier’s Tarzan’s Hemp store is still in business in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. But his landlord continues to scheme to have Tarzan’s removed. Instead of cashing Ethier’s rent cheque, the landlord has filed an eviction notice. According to Ethier’s legal counsel, however, the eviction notice was not valid, and so Ethier remains.
Ethier still faces charges from two police raids on his store at its old location in the same city earlier this year (see CC#18, Cops cut Tarzan’s vine). He and his partner, Joanne Sauve, will appear in court on September 27. Ethier’s brother, Luc, who also faces charges for working at the store, still does not have a court date.
Although most locals in the area have shown support, there is a contingent that doesn’t agree with Ethier’s pro-cannabis stance.
“A woman hand-delivered a letter to us the other day,” says Ethier. “We have a cannabis flag along the side of the highway. According to her and some local war vets, they seem to think we are desecrating the Canadian flag. We know one guy who is a vet who supports us. He said that when we went to war that we were fighting for people’s freedoms, and that is what our cannabis flag is about, freedom of speech and thought.”
? Mike Ethier of Tarzan’s Hemp: tel (705) 753-3206; email [email protected]