Unhappy hempster

Shawn Stockman: Singled out for a raid.Shawn Stockman: Singled out for a raid.Shawn Stockman happily sold bongs, t-shirts, stickers and other fun merchandise to locals in Newmarket, Ontario supporting his 14-year-old son and himself with the profits. He called the store “The Happy Hempster,” but police reports made him look like the “High-School Hempster.”
Preparing the way for reams of damaging press quotes against Stockman, the cops spent endless hours photographng lunching minors from a nearby school going in and out of his store, before attacking it with a police raid.

The media were savvy to police politicking.

“There was a young fellow who was interviewed for television,” said Stockman, referring to a program that aired on local station CKVR. “He attested that I never sold pipes to kids that weren’t of age, that I ID’d everyone. Which I did. I only sold them stickers or t-shirts, posters or incense. I wouldn’t sell them anything else.

“The police say the raid was due to the proximity of the school. But I suspect it had more to do with my dedication to becoming the biggest retailer in Canada.”

Stockman had been proudly telling friends and acquaintances about his plans to expand, and had contacted Cannabis Culture to begin an international advertising campaign. Police arrived soon after, on January 17, and cleaned him out of bongs, pipes, rolling papers and grinders. They charged him under Section 462.2 of Canada’s Criminal Code, for “selling instruments for illicit drug use.”

Police also seized Cannabis Culture magazines, although they were just for display, as we hadn’t yet provided The Happy Hempster with saleable stock. Police have no legal grounds for seizing pot magazines, as the section of the Criminal Code that made such literature illegal was struck down by the Ontario Supreme Court in 1994.

Labeling his bong and pipe merchandise “for use with tobacco products only” also did not slow down police in the least.

“The officer continued to refer to them as hash pipes and water bongs, and I continuously corrected him and asked him to to refer to my products in this manner,” Stockman recounted. “I said, ‘let me show you something,’ and I pulled out a pipe that was clearly marked ‘tobacco pipe.’ Surely it is not up to me to decide if someone is going to use my products for illicit drug use.”

Cannabis Culture contacted Constable Flemming, a media spokesperson for the York Regional Police, the force that conducted the raid. We asked him if the cops had plans to raid local 7-11’s for selling rollies to reefer-twisting pot-heads. Constable Flemming admitted that they were targeting the marijuana mindset, not specific products.

“If [rolling papers]were seized [at the Happy Hempster], they would have been seized because the overwhelming evidence in that store was that it was catering to non-tobacco products,” argued Constable Flemming. “We don’t intend to target other stores. Rolling papers have a legitimate use with loose tobacco and tobacco rolling machines. So we would not target 7-11.”

Shawn Stockman definitely feels singled out. He says that police knew all along that the seizure of his goods was unlikely to hold up in court.

“As they were counting the stuff, the officer was saying to ‘make sure that the pipes are packaged well, are not damaged, and counted well so that when Mr Stockman gets it back, he won’t be able to say there are some missing.'”

Luckily, Stockman found lawyer Paul Burstein, one of an unofficial cadre of legal professionals dedicated to drug-law reform, who works closely with York University law-professor Alan Young. Young has worked on many other such hemp-store cases.

“Every case that I worked on we have been successful with the ‘restoration argument,'” said Young. “We always get the pipes and bongs back. Drug paraphernalia isn’t absolute contraband in the sense that there is nothing illegal about possessing it, so it can be lawfully returned. In most provisions where they want forfeiture on conviction, they create a specific power to do so. It exists for some other 20 offences, they just forgot to put it in [Section 462.2].

“This is an example where the process is the punishment. No one is going to go to jail for selling pipes, but people are going to suffer economic deprivation and harassment in lieu of punishing them upon conviction. It has got to be the most trivial crime one can imagine, so they know the courts aren’t going to do anything. [Police figure that they] may as well try to put you out of business with the process.”

Stockman may also be found guilty of selling illicit parphernalia. Young has never been able to convince a judge that a bong or pipe sold at a head shop was intended for any other use.

Stockman believes that police may have been hoping to find huge hoards of hash and marijuana to justify their bogus raid. When one officer stumbled upon a locked briefcase, he acted like it was the goods, recounted Stockman.

“[The cop] asked me to open it in the presence of the other officers. I thought he figured it would be a cache of illicit drugs, and when I opened it in front of everyone, he looked quite disappointed.”

Police hauled Shawn Stockman off to jail anyway, and kept him there until 4 pm the next day, during which time Shawn was terrified about what might happen to his son, who may have been equally terrified about his father’s sudden disappearance. The cops refused to release Stockman until he signed conditions that were guaranteed to further erode the future of the Happy Hempster.

“There was a $2,500 bail,” Stockman said, shuffling through a stack of police papers. “Also, I am not allowed to possess any drug paraphernalia designed for the use of illicit drugs. I have to notify them of any change of address. And I am not to attend my store at 761 Davis drive, except on one occasion in the company of a police officer. They are trying to financially crush me until I am ready to go to jail. There is no question that this was a malicious attack.”

According to Stockman’s estimates, police seized about $40,000 in retail goods during the Happy Hempster raid. Meanwhile, Stockman is struggling to uphold his end of a two-year lease on the business location that is now producing no profits. He believes he will be in court to face charges sometime in the coming Summer.Shawn Stockman: Singled out for a raid.


? Shawn Stockman: (905) 715-7849