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Smokers Buying Pot At Vancouver Cafe Ruining Relaxed Relationship With Police.

By admin | September 15, 2004

Amy Carmichael
Canadian Press
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Impatient pot-heads, high enough to think they can force the legalization of marijuana, are ruining a relaxed relationship with police by brazenly buying and selling weed in a downtown cafe, says one legalization activist.

“The heat is perceived to be on us even more because of their activities,” said Ted Smith, founder of a 1,300-member compassion club that sells marijuana to sick people.

The Da Kine Smokeshop in the bohemian Commercial Drive neighbourhood is just in it for the money while pretending to be a righteous provider of relief to the ill who say marijuana alleviates pain and suffering, he said.

Police officers who raided the cafe said later the majority of the customers in Da Kine were young and unable to show they had a federal exemption allowing them to smoke pot.

Investigators estimated the shop has gross sales of $500,000 a month.

“They’re doing sales every 15-20 seconds, over the counter as quick as possible,” Smith said in an interview from his Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club office.

“They’re not furthering the cause, they’re hiding behind people in wheelchairs.

“It’s going to be really hard for anyone to open up a storefront for a medical club for B.C. if not Canada without the police wanting to go through a court case.

“They’ve done a fair amount of harm the way they have attacked the law here.”

Vancouver police Const. Sarah Bloor says officers are now investigating other stores along Commercial Drive that are allegedly selling pot.

Smith has been able to stay out of jail by requiring customers to produce a note from a doctor verifying they are ill. A provincial court judge ruled he was following responsible procedures and running a compassion club. The judge stayed charges against Smith this month.

Even the lawyer for Da Kine’s owner Carol Gwilt and her friends says Gwilt’s approach isn’t the way to convince politicians to relax pot laws.

John Conroy is instead taking the fight to a higher road he said gives the movement more credibility.

He is on a campaign to revive a national lobby group called Norml Canada that was powerful in the 1970s and 1980s.

“With a minority government in power, now is the time,” he said. “We need to work on the politicians and it’s hard to do that from behind bars.”

It’s easy to start thinking legalization is just a hash brownie away while spacing out in any Commercial Drive head shop.

It may seem like everyone is on side, but it’s just everyone in the neighbourhood, said Smith.

Hundreds of people turned off their chill-out tunes and snapped away from the TV to stand up for Da Kine.

They shouted at the police to leave the peaceful smokers alone and lit joints in protest. Even a week later, people who support the operation were hanging out outside the store, waiting for it to reopen.

Conroy has advised Gwilt to stop doing the deals herself.

Others have stepped in to run the Da Kine for her, but on Wednesday, a confused employee said the keys had gone missing.

Police have busted the alleged supplier.

Smith warned the fallout will hang over the community.

Solicitor General Rich Coleman was sufficiently provoked by the sales at the cafe to lash out, demand police action and hand down a swift public lecture about breaking the law.

Bloor said police take all criminal activity seriously. She added that the Da Kine was going over the top, waving the illegal activity in the face of police.

“They were openly flaunting their criminal activity and being so blatant that we had to act,” she said.

Baiting hard-liners in government has only set the movement back and could even spark a crackdown, Smith said.

“I do think Canadians are ready to see it legalized, they just want it regulated in a responsible manner.

“These coffee shops should be happening all over, but the reality is that we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”

While there are safe injection sites and sanctions given to a group handing out heroin in Vancouver for a medical trial, Smith pointed out the pot lobby still hasn’t won a safe-smoking space.

“None of us have a licence, none of us have protection from authorities. First let’s get compassion clubs supplying the sick people who need it in every major city across the country and then we can have the cafes and the pot stores.

“But these people are pushing it over in Vancouver because there’s money to be made.”

David Malmo-Levine, a member of the Marijuana Party who took the legalization fight to the Supreme Court, said “pot people aren’t going to wait for their dignity to be handed to them on a silver platter.

“We should all support Da Kine for forcing the issue.”

He said everyone knows Da Kine isn’t operating a compassion club and that the authorities know the difference and won’t start going after the sick.

“The people at Da Kine just can’t articulate their position as well, but any time we can get debate going I think it’s positive. This incident shows politicians how many people think the laws make no sense.”

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