The Vancouver, British Columbia City Council was set to meet on September 29th-30th for a "show-cause" hearing regarding the business licensing of the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC shops, but lawyers for owner Shelley Francis asked that the meeting be postponed until October 16. (See last week's story at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/060.html#hempbc.)
On the evening of September 30, the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC were raided by Vancouver police, under a warrant for drug paraphrenalia. Some $40,000 Canadian dollars worth of pipes, bongs and other smoking instruments were seized, according to police. Officers collected identification from staff and patrons in both stores, but no arrests were made. Any charges stemming from the raid will be addressed in summonses.
Within minutes of the raid, a crowd of supporters began to gather outside the front of the stores, growing to an estimated 150 people. At one point, according to police, some of the demonstrators became rowdy. An account on Hemp BC's web site notes that "at least five people were arrested," but Vancouver police spokeswoman Anne Drennan says that the protesters were only removed from the scene. "We removed seven people," she told The Week Online. "They were placed into paddy wagons and removed from the scene, and released without charges."
Constable Drennan said the city had received complaints about the closure of the street outside the stores due to the demonstration, but owner Shelley Francis was heartened by the show of support from the crowd. "The people of Vancouver do not want to see us shut down," she said.
Asked whether the raid had anything to do with the planned city council meeting, Constable Drennan said, "Absolutely nothing at all." She added, "That's not to say that the information culled from the summonses will not be placed before the Council."
Ms. Francis said, "Of course, it's all connected. It's all politically motivated."
Ms. Francis said a June, 1999 court date has been set for her earlier summonses, also stemming from drug paraphernalia charges.
Pipes, bongs, and other smoking instruments may be sold legally in Canada, but are considered "drug paraphernalia" if they are sold or used explicitly for illicit drug use. Hemp BC bills itself as an "Advocate, Distributor and Retailer of Fine Cannabis Goods."
Hemp BC is providing ongoing coverage of this story at http://www.hempbc.com.