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Council to decide on license request for pot provider

By Hempology | April 10, 2003

Tonight, 7:30pm, at Victoria City Hall

From the Times Colonist, April 10th, 2003

By Gerard Young

Victoria city council today will consider a business license application by a
local society that advocates the sale of marijuana for medical use.

However, city staff are recommending council deny the license to the International
Hempology 101 Society. Police also have concerns.

The society wants a license to sell books, art and health food magazines. However,
police previously have raided founder Ted Smith’s Johnson Street bookstore
numerous times.

“We don’t think the city has a legal justification to refuse a bookstore,” Smith
said Wednesday.

But staff think differently.

In a report, staff recommend against the business license “on the grounds that
the society engages in the unlawful distribution of marijuana as part of
the society’s retail book operations.”

Smith said that despite previous busts that netted him at least a half dozen
drug-related charges, the society has never stopped providing cannabis for
medical purposes.

Smith originally held the business license for the store but surrendered it May
17. The society now wants the license for the operation.

The Canadian government has various exemptions for the use of marijuana for
medical purposes but users must go through government channels to get approval.

Ottawa does not allow for the retail sale of the drug.

“The problem here is distribution and selling marijuana is still illegal in Canada
and that is what we have to look at,” Mayor Alan Lowe said.

“Our issue here is if he wants to sell books, fine but if he is using it as a
front for illegal activity, we can’t condone it.”

Still he would not prejudge how council will vote on the business license until
the society presents its case at the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Smith, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last fall, said despite its best efforts,
the police have targeted the society, which also has been the focus of countless

For instance, neither he nor the society sells cocaine nor do they rip off their
pot suppliers, he said, adding that the 50 mostly Vancouver Island suppliers
are paid within two weeks.

Hempology 101, which operates the Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Canada, says it has
1,200 members in branches in Halifax and Parksville as well as Victoria.

Victoria police Sgt. Darren Laur is the prime force behind the pressure to keep
the bookstore out of business, Smith said.

However, Laur said he empathizes with those who want to use marijuana for medical

The main problem, he explained, is that drug traffickers have bought the drug from
the bookstore at a cheap price and sold it on downtown streets for a profit.

The club says its only sells marijuana to those with permanent medical conditions.
But customers only need to show ID and a doctor’s note.

“It doesn’t have the checks and balances,” Laur said, adding that most raids
on the bookstore have resulted after busts of downtown traffickers.

The Johnson Street store has removed it’s Ted’s Bookstore sign and is currently
not open to the public. It now informs visitors it is under renovation.

Smith, who is challenging marijuana laws constitutionally, said he is now a
consultant for the society as he has been arrested too many times to be selling

He is confident the society can convince council to grant a business license.

The society explained its position at a news conference Thursday outside Victoria
MP David Anderson’s offie on Blanshard Street.

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