HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Raid Cafe That Sold Pot, Arrest Six People
Pubdate: Fri, 10 Sep 2004
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Chris Johnson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Dozens of Vancouver police officers arrested six people Thursday
evening in a raid on a busy Commercial Drive cafe that openly sold

Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor said the six arrested
inside Da Kine cafe face charges of trafficking a controlled substance.

Outside, some in a crowd of over 200 people taunted police officers,
who blocked Commercial between Parker and Napier streets for several
hours after the 6 p.m. raid, stopping business at about 20 shops and
delaying shooting of a Hollywood movie, The Fantastic Four.

The crowd cheered as The Peg General Store played Bob Marley's songs,
Get Up, Stand Up, and I Shot the Sheriff, while others smoked
marijuana or debated with police manning barricades.

More than 100 people continued protesting late into the night, blaming
the media for putting Da Kine in the spotlight and accusing police of
wasting money.

Bloor said the city's drug squad executed a search warrant at Da Kine
after complaints by Britannia secondary school, the Grandview Woodland
Community Policing Centre and others.

She said Da Kine had been "very blatant" about breaking the law. "It
was obvious they made this a public event by flaunting their activity."

She said Thursday's raid did "not react" to B.C. Solicitor-General
Rich Coleman's comments a day earlier that openly selling pot was
unacceptable while city politicians took a "ho-hum attitude." Coleman
does not direct police operations or investigations, but said
Wednesday he was confident the law would be enforced.

But residents such as Tammie Tupechka, a member of the board that
manages the Britannia Community Centre, called the raid a "message of
force and intimidation" that was politically motivated and didn't
reflect the wishes of most area residents and business owners.

Bloor said the police action had "overwhelming support by other

She said police were still gathering evidence in the cafe Thursday
night. She did not say whether police would raid other shops on
Commercial Drive and Hastings Street that also peddle marijuana and
related products.

Near Da Kine, The Spirit Within shop was closed, while staff at
Melting Point said they had no customers. A man who works inside the
B.C. Marijuana Party's shop on Hastings was nearly in tears as he
rushed to the scene on Commercial.

People in the crowd chanted: "We support Da Kine." Others mocked the
police, yelling: "It only took four months to figure it out,"
referring to Da Kine's spring opening.

Howard Plummer, who gets marijuana from the Compassion Club on
Commercial, said he saw Da Kine owner Carol Gwilt being taken from the
cafe in handcuffs. "People looked shocked when it happened," he said.
"They stopped all the transit and business here for nothing."

Some residents criticized the police for using overwhelming force. At
least 40 officers were seen blocking off the area.

"This store didn't bother anybody. They didn't force anybody to buy,"
said Sylvia Salfate, a 78-year old immigrant from Chile. "We don't
smoke, but this neighborhood is very open-minded. Now (the police) are
pushing it into the street."

Said Len Hewer, "[Police] prefer having dealers in parks than having
people peacefully buying marijuana in a legitimate business with a
licence and paying taxes."

The issue exploded last week when Gwilt publicly admitted marijuana
was being sold on the premises.

Business at Da Kine boomed with increased media coverage and the legal
limbo left by the city.

In the days before the raid, Vancouver police said they were aware of
stores selling marijuana and investigations were continuing into them.

Several Vancouver city councillors have appeared unconcerned that
stores on Commercial Drive have been selling marijuana over the counter.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell said Tuesday he did not condone the
illegal sale of marijuana in city cafes, but he did not see what the
"big deal" was about it.

Three members of city council were to conduct a hearing Sept. 15 to
determine whether the shop's business licence will be revoked.

On Thursday, the city announced the hearing had been rescheduled until
Oct. 6 because legal counsel for Da Kine was unavailable.

The city has said there was no suggestion marijuana might be sold in
the shop when Da Kine was granted a business licence May 4.

Gwilt maintains the marijuana is sold not by Da Kine, but by the
Canadian Cannabis Sanctuary Society, a non-profit society to which Da
Kine donates operating space.

Purchasers are asked to fill out an "application for registration"
with a declaration that "ingesting cannabis has therapeutic benefits
to my medical condition and my general state of well-being that
outweigh any health risks associated with it."

Earlier this week, tourism officials said the open sale of marijuana
is hurting the city's tourism business, while shop owners claimed they
attract tourists to Vancouver.
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