Peder Nelson, [email protected]
The Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC of Vancouver, British Columbia were closed by court order on Wednesday, June 9. The closing came after Supreme Court Justice Thomas Melnick upheld a city council decision denying the businesses an operating license. At the same time, Melnick granted an injunction to Vancouver city council lawyers to close the two proprietorships.
Marijuana activist Marc Emery, who stirred up local, national, and international politics with his outspoken views, founded the stores in 1994. In 1998, Emery sold the shops to Shelly Francis, who operated them until the shutdown. Both the shop and the cafe were raided several times by local police, and were the subject of an investigation run jointly by local authorities and the US Navy.
The city council held a special show-cause hearing on May 17-18, 1999, to determine whether a business license would be granted to Francis. Her request was denied. The council cited reasons such as lack of cooperation with local police, patrons smoking while in the establishments, and the degradation of the community. Nevertheless, local merchants and community members attended the meeting armed with 10,000 signatures on a petition in support of the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC. The denial prompted an application for relief by both parties directed to the BC Supreme Court.
In his decision, Justice Melnick noted that the city attorney's demands of Francis at the show-cause hearing "would make the expression 'red tape' appear inconsequential," but that in the end, "the city faces losing credibility in enforcing its licensing scheme" if the injunction were not granted.
The closing of the businesses represents a victory for Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen, who had publicly vowed that the stores would be "toast." A spokesman for the mayor told The Week Online he had no comment for this story.
"I guess they've won," Francis said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. "[But] I will always continue this fight to decriminalize marijuana. It's one that has to be fought." Her lawyers said Ms. Francis is planning an appeal.