AMSTERDAM-STYLE CAFE OWNERS FACE CHARGES
Police Cross-Examined by Couple Who Alleges the Bust of Their Cafe Was
an Unreasonable Search
Owners of the Melting Pot Cafe in Winlaw were in Nelson court this
week to question the validity of a RCMP raid of their business, saying
it went against their rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and
"There is a suggestion that a search warrant was not produced at
anytime by anyone," Crown counsel Rob Brown told the court, yesterday.
Two Winlaw residents, Nichola J. McGinn and Michael J. Garand, are
facing charges of possession of marijuana for the purpose of
trafficking after a May 30, 2003 sting at their cafe.
The bust and subsequent search warrant came after two undercover
officers allegedly purchased pot from McGinn in her store.
Cst. William Striker told Judge Ron Fabbro there was a basket of
"green plant-like material" on display in the Melting Pot Cafe when
Mounties executed the search warrant. Also found inside the store
were candles, pipes, scales, rolling papers and marijuana-related literature.
A sign at the front of the store stated: "The pot is at the end of the
rainbow. The Melting Pot Cafe is Winlaw's 'budding' Amsterdam Cafe.
We have pot, weed, marijuana, ganja, whatever you want to call it,
packaged and on display for the cannabis culture connoisseur." McGinn
and Garand are representing themselves in court in defense of the charges.
During Striker's cross-examination by McGinn, the officer admitted
that he failed to produce McGinn - who was at the store at the time of
the bust - with the RCMP search warrant nor did he recall handing the
warrant to her.
"I never produced you with a copy of the warrant. No I did not,"
Striker said. "I had it in my pocket...it was kind of a rush thing,
She was being uncooperative, resistant and vocal."
Striker said his main concern at the time was arresting McGinn for
trafficking marijuana and ensuring the evidence would not be destroyed
inside the store.
The court repeatedly saw videotape from a digital camcorder operated
by McGinn as police raided her shop. The 20-second clip featured the
authorities moving in on the storeowner.
"You are not permitted to be here," McGinn told the police on the
video. "I am a sovereign citizen. Show me the corpus delecti [a body
of writing outlining the ingredients of the offense i.e. the search
warrant]. Show me the corpus delecti."
As the videotape proceeds, Cst Peter Maw noticed McGinn was taping the
execution of the search and continued to repeat "show me the corpus
delecti," He then attempted to take the handheld camera away from
Maw said that from a police perspective, because of McGinn's
"combative" manner, he was worried the camera could double as a weapon.
"I don't know what's in your head and I don't know if you're going to
smash someone in the head with the camera," Maw told McGinn during his
The Mountie was able to pry the camera from McGinn and the video shows
the camera moving around the scene erratically as Maw grabbed her arm
to seize the item. The camera and tapes were later returned to the
owner after being taken into police custody.
The case was adjourned yesterday and Fabbro said it will resume once a
date has been fixed.
McGinn told the Daily News outside the Nelson Court House that she was
selling pot out of the store, which also sold aromatherapy products,
organic coffee and mate. She also admitted that minors would frequent
the store and purchased marijuana. "In reality we're not disputing
the facts of the case because straight up we were obviously doing it
and we feel we have the right to do that," McGinn said, adding they
are pleading not guilty to the charges.
McGinn said the whole case rubs her the "wrong way" because marijuana
is a part of the lifestyle in the area.
"Let's face the truth, this is the local custom and culture and it has
been for a long time. It's part of the economy. It's a big draw for
tourism - even for Nelson. A lot of people come here for the pot and
they're forced to buy it on the street corner and often they're
getting ripped off and they're not getting to taste the high quality
product that is produced in the Kootenays."