After 12 years in business, Hemp Haven owner Jeremy Loewen was arrested last week and charged by Winnipeg police for selling his products – but he said he still doesn’t understand why.
Hemp Haven is a Watt Street head shop that sells an array of smoking paraphernalia.
But Loewen says it’s a perfectly legal business.
“People can use this for all types of different things. We’ve had people come in here using them for shisha, a molasses flavoured tobacco,” he said. “[Shisha] – it’s flavoured. It smells fantastic.”
Loewen has about $160,000 worth of merchandise in his store, but since the cops showed up last Monday and charged him with possessing the proceeds of property obtained by crime and selling instruments for drug use, he has shut down his shop.
“I'm afraid to open up because they say if I open up again, I'm going to jail and I don't understand why!” he said. “I think it’s a bunch of malarkey! Like, how can you be arrested for going to work at a legitimate business that pays their taxes, pays them on time and employs people in the community?”
Loewen wants to know why he was allowed to pay taxes on the items if police believe they were illegally obtained and he was not allowed to sell them.
“There was no crime! I obtained them from a wholesaler. I paid my taxes on it. The wholesaler paid their taxes on it when they brought it into the country,” he said. “If I’m breaking the law, then really isn’t the government breaking the law too?”
City Coun. Brian Mayes isn’t sure Loewen’s reasoning holds much water. The former lawyer lead the charge earlier this year to create zoning laws that would prohibit head shops in certain areas.
“People email me on both sides of the legalization debate, and I just say, ‘Look, that's a federal thing. We're just talking about trying to get some zoning here to move these businesses away from school areas,” he said.
For now, Loewen will remain closed and has consulted a lawyer.