Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Matthew Ramsey; with a file from Ian Bailey
Published: September 12, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
The business of selling marijuana buds at the Da Kine cafe on Commercial Drive remains brisk three days after the store was raided and its hefty stash confiscated by Vancouver police.
Da Kine was able to restock after the Thursday raid, but ran out of marijuana to sell late Friday. Staff promised sales would resume today. A defiant management has vowed the controversial shop will not bow to police pressure and cease pot sales, despite legal advice to do so.
Management team member Lorne McLeod said the cafe is also contemplating legal action against police for damages to the premises during the raid. Dozens of officers, some wearing balaclavas to conceal their identities, stormed the cafe Thursday night.
"We're not going away. We plan to stay open," McLeod said Friday outside Da Kine. "We are not doing anything wrong here."
Police beg to differ.
"This was not a small, insignificant compassion club. This was a drug house and a very significant operation," acting Deputy Chief Const. Bob Rolls said, adding that the store averaged $30,000 a day in sales and had plans to establish different locations.
Police seized $63,000 in cash from the store ($27,000 of it in the till), $1,700 US, 9.5 kilograms of marijuana and 450 grams of hashish in the raid. Officers also carted away boxes containing 300 edible marijuana products.
Forty-one people were in the store at the time of the raid, said drug squad Insp. Dave Nelmes, eight of them staff members. A majority of the customers were young and none was able to present police with federal exemptions that would allow them to possess and consume marijuana legally, Nelmes said.
Seven staff members are charged with trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Owner Carol Gwilt is also charged with possessing proceeds of a crime.
Nelmes said Da Kine, Hawaiian slang for "the best," first came to the attention of police after someone called in a tip to CrimeStoppers Aug. 26.
McLeod denied that the store took in $30,000 a day.
"I wish," he said. "We're doing vast business, but not on a profit basis."
Pot sold at Da Kine is purchased from the Canadian Sanctuary Society, McLeod said. Buyers at Da Kine must be over 18 and must either present a federal exemption (allowing them to possess and consume marijauna) or register with the society and fill out an exemption application. The applicant, and some 10,000 have applied through Da Kine, must swear the marijuana is to alleviate some symptom, condition or disease.
Since 1999, Health Canada has been granting exemptions to the Controlled Drug and Substance Act to allow sick and dying people to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal use. Applicants need approval from Health Canada before their marijuana possession is legal.
Monica Towery's stated reason Friday as she plunked down $40 for four grams of marijuana was "stress."
"I have kids. I have lots of stress," said the 34-year-old Dallas, Tex., resident.
Police came under heavy criticism for the scope of the Thursday raid that saw a full block shut down for several hours, a movie production halted and hundreds of people put behind barricades hurling abuse and profanities at officers.
Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor would not say how many officers were involved in Thursday's raid, only that "several dozen" took part. Rolls and Nelmes insisted the raid had nothing to do with statements made last week by B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman, who said he believed something should be done about Da Kine.
"We made a decision to do this [the week before]," Nelmes said.
Coleman declined to comment on the deployment of police resources, but said the province expects federal laws and provincial laws to be enforced.
However, NDP MP Libby Davies said Prime Minister Paul Martin needs to act quickly to re-introduce marijuana reforms when Parliament convenes next month.
Pointing to the raid, Davies, who represents Vancouver East, said in a statement: "These sorts of situations are going to continue if Paul Martin and the federal government refuse to face the issue, and as [a] result lives are ruined because of criminal convictions."
Grandview-Woodland Community Policing office president Eileen Mosca said she's looking to city hall for some kind of leadership on the issue of marijuana sales from businesses and she wants Mayor Larry Campbell and councillors to "have the jam" to take a stand.
"This city deserves better governance than turning a blind eye," Mosca said. "Come to grips with this as a council. Make a statement as to whether retail premises are allowed to sell marijuana or not."
Note: Police recommending drug-trafficking charges against Da Kine Staff
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