British Columbia

B.C. cannabis shop covers window with photo of frontier Mountie. RCMP wants it removed

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have asked a new Cranbrook cannabis shop to take down an image of famous Mountie Sam Steele, which covers one of its windows.

'I saw it as a tribute to the RCMP, to be honest,' says operator of Cranbrook store

The manager at Jimmy's Cannabis shop in Cranbrook, B.C., has been asked by the RCMP to remove an image of famous Mountie Sam Steele from the side of the store. (Jeff Weaver)

Jeff Weaver has been jumping through the legal hoops required to set up Jimmy's Cannabis shop in Cranbrook, B.C., but now an image of a famous Mountie Weaver used to cover one of the shop's windows has caught the attention of law enforcement.

Cannabis stores in B.C. are required to cover their windows so the interior can't be seen from the street.

Many shops use plain, frosted white coverings, but Weaver opted for a collection of black and white historical images representative of the Cranbrook area.

One of the windows depicts Sam Steele, known as the man who helped bring law and order to the west in the late 19th century.

Weaver's store had only been open a matter of hours on Thursday when the image of a mustachioed Steele led to a visit by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — and a request to take the picture down.

"My initial response was to say 'absolutely,' because it was our first day of business and it was quite friendly," said Weaver of the request.

But soon he began to have second thoughts, and he's now hoping to avoid taking Steele off the window.

In a statement, Cranbrook RCMP said the national police force's uniform is trademarked and can't be used without permission.

Sam Steele's legacy

Steele is among Canada's most famous Mounties. He was the third recruit in the North-West Mounted Police force — a precursor to the RCMP — and his name rings throughout the Cranbrook area. 

The city celebrates the annual Sam Steele Days festival, there's a strip club at the Sam Steele Inn, and the heritage town of Fort Steele is about 16 kilometres away. That was the site of the first permanent North-West Mounted Police post west of the Rocky Mountains, originally established by Steele as Kootenay Post in 1887.

Sam Steele of the North-West Mounted Police and his detachment near Revelstoke, B.C., during construction of CPR, 1884. (Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta)

After maintaining law and order in the Kootenays, which included diffusing tensions between settlers and the Ktunaxa peoples, Steele went on to do the same in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.

The iconic red serge was still taking shape as a uniform during Steele's service in the NWMP. He's not wearing the Stetson hat in most of the historical images — and many, like the photo used on Weaver's cannabis shop, don't have him wearing any hat at all.

He does sport the red serge in many photos, but of course, they're all black and white.

For Weaver, Steele isn't just a part of the RCMP's history, he's part of the historical fabric of Cranbrook, and the window covering won't be cheap to replace — about $1,000, by Weaver's estimate.

Cranbrook RCMP provided CBC with a statement about the issue, saying that the force became aware of concerns about the use of an image of the iconic NWMP uniform.

"Local officials took steps to confirm the images use was in breach," said the statement. "The owner of the business was not aware that the RCMP uniform is trademarked and as such cannot be used without the expressed permission of the national police force."

Weaver is now considering his options, and hopes to keep Steele's image on the building.

A image of a legendary Mountie Sam Steele used to cover a Cranbrook cannabis shop has attracted the RCMP's attention. (Jeff Weaver)

"I see him as a figure of compromise and meeting people halfway," he said. "I saw it as a tribute to the RCMP, to be honest."

Weaver said he doesn't think he'd be getting the RCMP attention if the store wasn't selling cannabis, but he wasn't told it had anything to do with weed.

He said he's hoping to discuss the issue further with police to get more information about its concerns.

"The last thing I want is to appear disrespectful to the RCMP," said Weaver.

With files from Bob Keating and CBC Radio West

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