Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Krisendra Bisetty, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, September 13, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
People were lined up 20-deep for marijuana outside the Da Kine Food and Beverage shop on Commercial Drive within minutes of its opening at noon Sunday, while across the street Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell said the drug should be legalized.
But the mayor also appeared to backtrack slightly from comments he'd made earlier in the week that the sale of marijuana at Da Kine was not a "big deal."
"I support legalization of marijuana, but at the same time that doesn't mean Da Kine management get to flout the law until the law is changed," Campbell said in an interview outside the Britannia public library, where staff celebrated the city's decision to allow four local libraries to open on Sundays.
While Da Kine's selling of marijuana is illegal and a police issue, Campbell said, his earlier comment that it was not a "big deal" was made from the point of view that it was open for four months with no complaints.
"Certainly there is a big deal from the standpoint of legality. It's illegal, and there's nothing the city can do to change that. It's a federal law, and this idea that we can pass a bylaw that says coffee shops can sell marijuana is craziness. We can't do it; it's not a municipal responsibility."
While Da Kine continues to sell marijuana -- "poking a stick at the police" -- Campbell says that won't make marijuana legal. adding that there would obviously be repercussions, referring to Thursday's police raid at the Commercial Drive pot shop. In addition to a haul of marijuana and cash, Da Kine owner Carol Gwilt and seven employees were arrested.
"My answer is you legalize it and tax the living hell out of it. And every bit of the tax should go straight to health care, not the general fund," Campbell said.
Da Kine resumed business a day after it was raided by police last Thursday. In addition to a haul of marijuana and cash, Da Kine owner Carol Gwilt and seven employees were arrested.
Gwilt and others linked to her shop have said selling marijuana over the counter for medicinal purposes helps get rid of street peddlers. But the mayor dismissed that argument as specious, saying, "They [Da Kine staff] are peddlers themselves."
And Da Kine's marijuana sources are involved in organized crime, he insists.
"The fact of the matter is that it is against the law; it is illegal; they are trafficking in a drug. Would it make any sense if they opened up and started selling heroin?"
The mayor's tough talk aside, Gwilt said she is still "proud" of Campbell for his stance on marijuana.
As customers squeezed inside her store and others lined up outside, Gwilt, who was possibly contravening a condition of her release from custody that she stay away from marijuana or any location or person where it is present, said in a sidewalk interview that if Campbell can approve of a safe-injection site for heroin users, he should do the same for those who smoke marijuana.
"There's a safe-injection site in Vancouver although heroin is illegal. Why? Because there's a need for it, because people are dying on the street. And our wonderful mayor ... has realized this and has come to the aid of his people, which is what any good mayor will do," Gwilt said.
She described the police raid as a waste of taxpayers' money. "If they come again it's just absolutely absurd, and if they got the balls enough to do that, I got the balls enough to open up again ... This is war."
Gwilt said she works 15 hours a day seven days a week, and smokes pot during every one of those days for relief from a chronic "vertigo condition" she has had since she was five.
"I'm able to live each day and get out of my bed because of marijuana."
A customer leaving her shop after buying an undisclosed amount of marijuana said he's smoked it daily for 24 years simply to "get high" because his job as a driver in Vancouver is stressful.
"It takes the edge off, but I'm not a drug addict, except for pot," the 57-year-old man said, clutching a plastic container as walked away.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Da Kine management, Lorne McLeod, said Sunday the possibility of opening a similar store had come up.
"Opening elsewhere has been a thought, if we make money," he said, without elaborating.
Gwilt and her seven employees are scheduled to appear in Vancouver provincial court Oct. 6 on charges of possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. Gwilt is also charged with possessing proceeds from a crime.
Gwilt told The Sun that representatives of her business are "trying to negotiate" with the city, ahead of a hearing the same day on whether its business licence will be revoked.
The city says Da Kine was granted a business licence in 2004 to offer limited food service and to sell publications, gifts and clothing.
Da Kine, however, claims that its intention to sell marijuana for medicinal purposes was indicated on its licence application.
Note: Mayor says store doesn't have a right to flout the law.
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