Marijuana Cafe Owner Says
Cannabis Laws Should Be Done Away With
by Jeremy Hainsworth
Thursday, September 2, 2004
VANCOUVER (CP) - A Vancouver cafe operator who offers marijuana on her menu says people need a crime-free method of getting the weed and she's going public to raise awareness on the issue.
"Every law to do with cannabis has to be taken off the books," said Carol Gwilt, owner of Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop on Vancouver's hip Commercial Drive. "There's nothing criminal about cannabis."
Normally, Gwilt's customers can get a menu and select some pot before someone goes into the back to get the order.
But there was no pot on the premises Wednesday, Gwilt said.
"I want to protect my assets," she said.
The store, which has been open for four months, is decorated in an Egyptian motif. Display cases contain multi-coloured glass pipes for smoking pot. Plant food sits on shelves opposite.
A plate of cookies is on the counter next to the till. Gwilt won't say if they contain marijuana or not.
"I'm just trying to be a business person," Gwilt said. "There's obviously a huge market.
"I don't consider what we're doing illegal. We want a lot of these stores. We want these across Canada."
She said she gets her marijuana from the Canadian Sanctuary Society, a group formed by former B.C. Marijuana Party candidate Donald Briere to help people legally acquire marijuana for medical use.
Gwilt claims crime in the area has dropped since she opened. She said people needing medicinal marijuana should be able to get it in a non-criminal situation.
And, she said, it will keep people away from pushers dealing in heroin or crack cocaine.
That's something she knows about. She said her son died of a heroin overdose two years ago at age 24.
The Vancouver Police Department, which has raided other city marijuana cafes in the past, is watching Da Kine.
"This is a business that is on our radar," spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor said. "We're in discussion with the city and our hope is to have the (business) licence removed."
But city Coun. Jim Green said yanking Gwilt's business licence is pretty low on the city's list of priorities.
"We've not had any complaints," he said. "I never heard of it (the cafe) until yesterday."
Green also noted there's a tolerance in Vancouver to these kinds of establishments.
"We're looked at as the enlightened part of Canada."
Customer Andy Kale thinks the police should worry about bigger drug problems than a marijuana cafe.
"This is a great safe inhalation site," he said. "I don't have to be bothered by crackheads."
Kale and Gwilt say the situation will also draw attention to the plight of B.C. Marijuana Party founder Marc Emery.
The activist was jailed last in August after being convicted of trafficking for passing a joint while speaking at a University of Saskatchewan political rally.