Cannabis Culture defeats censorship cops

Cannabis Culture magazine faced down police censorship in Timmins, Ontario, and won.
Police in Timmins, Ontario had threatened local storeowners with arrest if they continued selling Cannabis Culture and High Times magazines. As a result, both were pulled off the shelves of all stores in the city.

To protest this unconstitutional police action, Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery bought a half-page ad in the Timmins Daily Press. Emery also flew to Timmins on Saturday, October 21, and openly gave out over 200 copies of Cannabis Culture magazine in front of the police station, while smoking the occasional joint The police made no arrests, and backed down from their claims that Cannabis Culture is an illegal magazine.

The protest and rally got media coverage in the Ottawa Citizen, CBC Radio, and a variety of radio news and other media.

Timmins newspaper The Daily Press ran this front-page story on October 23:

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TIMMINS — Hemp activist Marc Emery drew a crowd of about 200 people in front of the Timmins Police station Saturday, baiting police to arrest him while he distributed his magazine and puffed on the occasional joint.

“We are fully entitled to smoke and sell and grow marijuana because marijuana is fabulous,” Emery said to the applause and cheers to those who showed up for a free, signed copy of his magazine.

Timmins Police did not arrest him.

At times waving his hands about like a street-corner preacher, the 42-year-old Emery called pot smokers the “most persecuted culture” and at one point led those around him in a chant of: “Grow more pot! Grow more pot!”

Emery’s appearance in Timmins from his home in British Columbia comes after Timmins Police requested that copies of Cannabis Culture be pulled off the shelves of 14 distributors.

Joe Romualdi, a member of the Timmins Police drug unit, had initiated the move after a Grade 7 student in Timmins came to school with a copy of the magazine.

At the time, Romualdi issued a statement stating, “To sell or distribute the magazine is illegal” and that any city store owners who continued to carry the publication “would be dealt with.”

Emery quoted Romualdi to his audience and asked: “What kind of threat is that? That’s no different than it was in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany.”

No police officer has the right to say you can’t read about marijuana, he said to the sounds of, “Right on! Right on!”

“What’s next? Tattoo magazines? Biker magazines?,” Emery asked.

“It’s only a matter of time before they try pulling those off the shelves too,” he told the crowd.

Emery handed out about 300 copies of his bi-monthly magazine which has been in publication now for six years.

Romualdi had referred to the publication as a “crime comic” which would make its distribution illegal.

However, that section of the Criminal Code dealing with crime comics – Section 163, Subsection 7 – states that a publication depicting criminal activity must be “substantially” pictorial for its distribution to be illegal.

That’s where the Timmins Police were wrong in ordering his magazine off the shelves, said Emery.

He said his magazine has lots of photos but it’s mostly filled with articles about legal issues and recent court decisions, information on how to cultivate marijuana, stories about the use of grass in spiritual and religious ceremonies and coverage about recent social events or pot parties.

“Our magazine is not an illustrated magazine. It’s not aimed at children,” he said.

“The average age of our subscribers is 28 to 45. The content is sophisticated and not really the kind that any young person would really absorb.”

Emery’s lawyer, Alan Young, faxed a letter to Timmins Police Chief Denis Lavoie this past week ordering the Timmins Police to “cease and desist” with its arrest threats or face a $250,000 civil lawsuit.

“That’s for lost revenue and punitive damages to the police for exercising unlawful and unconstitutional authority,” Emery told The Daily Press.

The police were also told to issue a letter of apology to Emery for the violation of his expressive freedoms.

Young gave Timmins Police until Oct. 30 to comply or face a court battle.

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The October 22 edition of the Ottawa Sun ran this article about the protest:

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Publisher Accuses Police Of Intimidation

TORONTO — Hemp activist Marc Emery sat outside a Timmins police station yesterday baiting police to charge him for distributing his magazine.

But they didn’t charge Emery, who sat at a desk and gave away more than 200 copies of his magazine, Cannabis Culture.

Police told area store owners they would be charged if they sold Cannabis Culture, after a school principal laid a complaint after finding a Grade 7 student reading it in school.

The police believed the magazine had objectionable magazine content because it included the “production (and) cultivation of a narcotic.” Timmins Const. Gilles Carbonneau said the police “have no problems with the written word.” The problem, he said, lies with the visual content of the magazine.

Carbonneau said one of the 14 Timmins’ distributors for Cannabis Culture magazine called police and was told anyone selling magazines with pictures “real or fictitious” of illegal acts could be arrested under Section 163, of the criminal code.

Cops ‘Invented Law’

But Emery, who travelled from his BC home to protest the ban, said police were just “intimidating local people.”

“The police invented a law that is inapplicable to my magazine,” said Emery, the magazine’s publisher.

“It’s a very serious situation … there are implications for other magazines as well,” he added.

He said magazines on motorcycles, tattoos, and horror movies could be targeted if the police responded to every complaint.