British Columbia

Commercial Drive pot shop busted

Vancouver police have shut down the Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop that had been openly selling marijuana since May.

Vancouver police have shut down the Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop that had been openly selling marijuana since May.

More than 30 officers moved in on Thursday night, set up barricades on Commercial Drive and arrested six people.

A crowd of angry protesters gathered behind the barricade, a block from the shop, chanting, "We want weed, we want weed, we want freedom."

Da Kine has been open for four months, but owner Carol Gwilt went public earlier this month, saying she hoped to convince officials that her store is a vital part of Vancouver's plan to reduce the harm of drug use.

Police say that despite knowing about the cafe, they waited until an official investigation was finished and a warrant obtained before taking any action.

Police close down Commercial Drive
"It became a priority when drug traffickers decided to openly flaunt their activity," says police spokesperson Const. Sarah Bloor.

"It became a concern to the public. They brought their concerns to our attention and we've acted on that information."

On Wednesday, B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman criticized Vancouver city hall for taking a "ho-hum attitude" towards drugs.

But Bloor says political pressure never came into play. And the store was shut down only because it was illegally selling drugs.

"Our role is to enforce the law, not to react to politics, politicians or the public. This is based on the rule of law, and we're here today because of the rule of law."

But people living and working in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood say they don't have a problem with Da Kine.

"It seems to me that it hasn't bothered anybody on the drive," says longtime resident William Butler.

"Seeing as it was in the headlines of the Vancouver Sun [Thursday] morning, it seems to be nothing more than police and political grandstanding."

Paul Suh, who owns a neighbouring store, says he didn't mind "at all the pot store on our street. I think Canadians are known for pot smokers anyway, so what's the big deal having it?"

A second shop, about 40 metres from Da Kine, is also allegedly selling marijuana. But police haven't raided that business.

The lawyer for the Da Kine cafe says the raid on the shop doesn't come as a surprise. But John Conroy says he questions the use of police resources.

"You know, on the one hand, this government is encouraging or privatizing liquor stores, and encouraging more distribution of liquor, which we know to be a much more substantial problem drug, and they're using a SWAT-team type of approach for a place like Da Kine," he says.

Conroy claims the sale of marijuana at the shop was mostly for medical purposes.

The cafe limited sales to 28 grams for customers who had to be at least 19 years old, but didn't require a doctor's note.