By Alfa · Sep 11, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    As the federal government is poised to decriminalize marijuana, two
    Vancouver stores have been taking it one step further by openly
    selling the weed. And another city shop owner is peddling equipment to
    help people do drugs, selling "bubble bags" that refine hashish for

    The owner, Bryan Hamilton, boasted to a Vancouver newspaper this week
    that his business is "liquid cash."

    While not wanting to speak specifically about Vancouver, Justice
    Minister Irwin Cotler told Sun Media some people are confusing
    decriminalization and legalization.

    The Vancouver shops -- The Spirit Within and Da Kine's -- have been
    doing a booming business right under the noses of city cops who are
    leaving it up to city's licensing department to deal with.

    Vancouver Conservative MP John Reynolds blames federal Grits for
    "allowing people to flout the laws because they lack the nerve to take
    any action ... They'd rather spend time approving pedicures for
    convicted murderers than review, overhaul or enforce the drugs laws."

    Marijuana can only be sold legally in Canada to those who can prove
    they have a medicinal need for it.

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  1. Alfa

    Several Vancouver city councillors appeared relatively unconcerned
    Thursday about reports of a cafe on Commercial Drive openly selling

    "I think as a city, we have much more important issues that need our
    immediate attention," said Coun. Tim Louis.

    "I don't know that it's one of the most important issues," said Coun.
    Anne Roberts. "I'm more concerned about single-resident occupancy
    hotels that violate our bylaws, or places that fence stolen goods --
    that concerns me much, much more."

    Carol Gwilt, owner of Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop at 1018
    Commercial Drive, is scheduled to appear Sept. 15 at a hearing to
    determine whether the city will revoke the cafe's business licence
    because Gwilt has admitted to making over-the-counter sales of marijuana.

    Barb Windsor, Vancouver's deputy chief licensing inspector, said
    Thursday a panel of three city councillors will hear evidence relating
    to the operation of Da Kine before making a recommendation to city

    "The panel will determine if any action should be taken against the
    business licence," Windsor said. "If the decision by council is to
    revoke the licence, [the proprietor] could be told to close
    immediately, or be given a timeline."

    Initial information indicated Coun. Tim Stevenson had knowledge of the
    cafe's activities before it hit the front page of The Vancouver Sun
    Thursday, but Stevenson has since denied that. He said he found out
    about it from media sources on Wednesday.

    Stevenson said he had just received minutes from a July 15 meeting he
    attended with about a dozen Commercial Drive entrepreneurs, and said
    there was no mention of illegal drug sales in the neighbourhood.

    "There was one section on what they call problem premises, residential
    and business, and it doesn't even mention the word 'marijuana,' let
    alone a mention of that particular business [Da Kine]," he said.

    Other councillors said they didn't see it as a problem, regardless of
    whether Stevenson was aware of the business.

    "If [Stevenson] did know about it in advance, he did the right thing
    by not raising it as an issue," Louis said. "I don't think there's any
    problem with him not raising it."

    Roberts said she also heard about the Da Kine caf
    e through the

    She said the issue needed to be looked into, adding that council
    doesn't support people violating bylaws. However, she said such places
    were not her top priority.

    Coun, Jim Green said the current complaint process should be adequate
    for handling such matters.

    "I checked throughout the city and with other councillors and there
    have been absolutely no complaints about this store. We get complaints
    about everything -- I've got five or six e-mails today about a guy
    parking a truck by a construction site. I would assume that Councillor
    Stevenson thought our staff will report to us if there's an issue
    here, and that's the normal way we deal with things."

    The Da Kine cafe is licensed to operate as a limited-service food
    establishment. It is permitted to sell pre-packaged food -- no food
    preparation on-site is allowed -- along with publications, gifts and

    No smoking is permitted on the premises, while seating for a maximum
    number of 16 people is authorized for both inside and outside.

    The business licence, which cost $311, expires Dec. 31.

    Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor said earlier the
    police force "had concerns" when the cafe first applied for a licence
    in January.

    But despite those unspecified concerns -- which police raised with
    city staff -- a business licence was issued May 4.

    On Wednesday, Gwilt admitted to the media her shop has been selling
    marijuana over the counter since it opened four months ago, although
    no drugs are displayed.

    She told reporters she considers her cafe to be a vital part of
    Vancouver's harm reduction plan when it comes to dealing with drug
    use, and hopes the city and police allow her to stay in business.

    "I don't consider what I'm doing to be illegal," Gwilt said. "Cannabis
    needs to be removed from the Criminal Code."

    Gwilt did not return phone calls Thursday.

    Bloor reiterated Thursday that while police were aware of the
    situation at the cafe, no investigation was undertaken because of a
    lack of resources.

    "We can only do so much with what we have," she said, adding the
    department is more interested in cracking down on serious criminals
    and large crime organizations.

    "Our priority is to investigate [marijuana] grow-ops and organized
    crime," said Bloor, pointing to the recent seizure of about 450
    kilograms of pot -- with a street value exceeding $1 million --from
    three Vancouver residences.

    As for the Da Kine cafe, Bloor said: "[Police] can't just go in to
    arrest and seize. You have to get search warrants. You just can't walk
    in and shut down an operation.

    "If we can work with the city to have their licence pulled, we'll do
  2. Alfa

    Shop is across Commercial from now-famous cafe

    VANCOUVER - A second store is openly selling marijuana on Commercial Drive
    just across the street from the now-famous Da Kine cafe.

    But staff at The Spirit Within, which lists the prices for various types of
    marijuana on a large chalkboard sign by its front counter, are far less
    willing to talk about their business.

    A staff member at the store asked a reporter with The Vancouver Sun to leave
    the premises Sunday afternoon when questioned about its sale of marijuana.

    In addition to the large sign, the store displayed a list of marijuana
    varieties and prices on a piece of paper by the cash register.

    The marijuana -- sold for about $15 a gram -- is provided to customers in
    small plastic bags.

    The small store also sells books and marijuana paraphernalia.

    Unlike at Da Kine, customers at The Spirit Within are not asked to fill out
    a form saying they use marijuana for medical purposes.

    Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor said she couldn't confirm
    until members of the drug squad returned from holidays on Tuesday whether
    the squad was aware that The Spirit Within was openly selling marijuana.

    Len Hewer, who described himself as a regular customer of The Spirit Within,
    said the store usually has about four different varieties of marijuana for

    "It's excellent," said Hewer. "I know I'll get an honest weight and an
    honest price."

    Hewer said he wasn't sure how long the store had been open, but said he'd
    been going there to purchase marijuana for about four months.

    Hewer said he takes marijuana for various medical conditions, but said he
    hasn't received official approval to use the drug from Health Canada.

    Possession of a one-month supply of medicinal marijuana is legal in Canada
    for people who are terminally or chronically ill and have approval from
    Health Canada to use the drug.

    While The Spirit Within did a brisk business Sunday, it was not nearly as
    busy as the Da Kine cafe -- which has been subject to intense media
    attention since its owner, Carol Gwilt, confirmed last week that she had
    been selling marijuana since the shop opened four months ago.

    Bloor has said police were aware the Da Kine cafe was
    selling marijuana, but
    the force did not have the resources to launch an investigation.

    She said police expressed their concerns about the cafe to the City of
    Vancouver's licensing department.

    The city will hold a hearing Sept. 15 to determine if Da Kine's business
    licence should be revoked. However, councillors Tim Louis and Anne Roberts
    have already said they don't think shutting down the cafe should be a top
    priority for the city.

    Gwilt said Sunday she has not been contacted by police, but refused to
    comment further, saying she was too busy.

    A steady stream of people visited Da Kine Sunday, at the rate of about one a

    Brian Feldbloom, who visited the cafe after hearing about it in the news,
    said he couldn't believe how busy it was.

    "It's packed," he said. "They're so busy that they ran out of the cheap
  3. Alfa

    Vancouver resident Mark Boyer, also a Marijuana Candidate for Kingsway East
    in the June federal election, wanted to take the Abbotsford Police Service
    to court.

    Boyer, who has lymphoma and operates a compassion club, is claiming rights
    to the equipment and pot taken by the Abbotsford police in a July 5
    marijuana grow bust.

    However, his application to have the police department charged under Sect.
    337.1 of the Canada Criminal Code was denied in a process hearing Thursday
    by Judge Peder Gulbransen in Abbotsford provincial court.

    Boyer said Sect. 337.1, a rarely used law, refers to a charge of a public
    official refusing to return property.

    Rob Menard, who spoke to the court along with Boyer, said they were not able
    to establish enough information for the court to allow the matter to
    proceed. The court was closed to everyone except the applicants.

    Boyer's application stems back to July 5, when he said the Abbotsford police
    forced their way into his home without a warrant and found a grow-op.

    "They came without a warrant. They came in with guns and terrorized the kids
    and everyone who was there," Boyer said, adding that no charges were laid
    relating to the bust.

    Even though the grower insisted that the grow-op was legal and was for a
    medical marijuana compassion network, the police took grow lights, other
    equipment and 75 small plants, he said. The police also asked the grower to
    sign a release allowing them to take the equipment, threatening him with
    arrest if he did not sign, he said. Those actions are illegal, Boyer said.

    Boyer said he had the grow-op arranged legally through the Grow-op Co-op,
    which arranges producers for medical marijuana. Boyer insists the Abbotsford
    grow-op was safe and not stealing electricity.

    Boyer also said that under the Canada Elections Act, growing and selling
    marijuana in support of his party's platform and to raise money for tax
    deductible donations is completely legal. He cited a precedent set in the
    Longley vs. Regina case in 1999.

    "So I'm claiming fiduciary rights to the grow-op," he said before the court

    He also wanted to be compensated for the value of the marijuana, which he
    said could be as much as $100,000.

    After the process hearing, held to see if there was enough evidence to
    continue, Boyer said that he may apply to have his property returned under
    Sect. 490 of the CCC, which says a person can apply to have property after
    the police hold it for 90 days. He also did not rule out a civil suit
    against the Abbotsford police.
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