Hemp Store Open for Business

Hemp Store Open for Business

Doug Ward,
Vancouver Sun, 6 January 1996

One day after being raided by Vancouver police, the Hemp BC store was backin business Friday, except for the direct sale of marijuana seeds.

Customers, supporters, and the curious filled the Hastings Street store asstaff fielded calls about the raid, sold merchandise, and pondered how torevive their multi-million dollar marijuana-seed sale operation.

“We’re back to business – business with a vengeance“, said storeowner Marc Emery. “We can’t shrink from it. They’ve gutted our inventory.So everybody is going to work twice as hard and take a pay cut.”

Emery said BC Hemp, which lost $45,000 worth of seeds and $45,000 of drugparaphernalia during Thursday’s raid, is considering setting up a mail-orderoperation.

Seeds will no longer be held at the store or at the nearby Gastownwarehouse, said Emery. Instead, BC Hemp will coordinate the mailing of seedsfrom growers to customers.

A sign in the narrow, congested store said: “Seed bank temporarily closed.Robbed by Vancouver Police“.

The raid was the first time in Vancouver that trafficking charges have beenlaid for seed sales. Police raided the store at 324 West Hastings and thewarehouse at 21 Water St.

Vancouver police Const. Anne Drennan said police were surprised at thenumber of seeds they found at the warehouse. “There were thousands andthousands of seeds which ranged in price retail from $1.50 each to $14.”

Police were also surprised by records showing the seeds were being soldworldwide, said Drennan. “We knew that they were selling seeds but didn’trealize that it was as extensive as it was.” Drennan said police foundrecords with customer’s names, but that there are no plans at this point toprosecute those people.

Emery said the raid had more to do with crippling the storefinancially than with gaining a criminal conviction against marijuana-seedsales.

Drennan rejected Emery’s claim, saying the purpose of the raid was to”arrest and charge people who were responsible for trafficking in an illegalsubstance.”

Emery said the raid has left him with a cash crunch. “We did $2.2 million ofbusiness in ’95 but I din’t save any of it. We have a $7,000-a-week payrollwhich just got slashed substantially and we have no money in the bank and weowe $45,000 on seeds we no longer can sell.”

Emery said the charges will fail in court because marijuana seeds arenot illegal.

“There’s no drug quality to the seed. Somebody has to initiate it. If I giveyou the trigger of the gun and you put the gun together and kill somebody,does that mean that I’m responsible?”

The store slashed prices Friday on many items, mostly pipes and various hempproducts, to generate quick income.

Emery said he has little choice but to continue. “I’ve got lots of employees,I’ve got faimly, I’ve got bills to pay, I’ve got a movement to propel. Sowe are not changing our course.”

He said the raid stemmed from media coverage of the store in Canada and theUS, including The Wall Street Journal.

“The intense scrutiny by all the foreign press probably landed up onsomebody’s desk like the mayor’s, the chief of police, and probably somefederal politicians.

“The police got tired of being asked why we weren’t being busted. And sothey decided to bust us.”

Drennan said police felt they couldn’t raid until they grew BC Hemp seedsinto plants and did lab tests. The first seeds, bought months ago, proved tobe duds. She said the public is not prepared to accept the sale of marijuanaseeds.

Phone calls to police show the public is split evenly on the issue, saidDrennan. “So we’re saying: Now let’s let the courts decide.”

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