Is there a war on Winnipeg head shops? Owners say yes

Multiple Winnipeg head shop owners are closing their doors after recent visits from Winnipeg police.​

Winnipeg head shop owners say visits from police are forcing them out of business

Is there a war on Winnipeg head shops?

9 years ago
Duration 2:05
Multiple Winnipeg head shop owners are closing their doors after recent visits from Winnipeg police.​

Multiple Winnipeg head shop owners are closing their doors after recent visits from Winnipeg police.​

Hemp Haven was recently raided by police and its owner, Jeremy Loewen, charged with possessing the proceeds of property obtained by crime and selling instruments for drug use.

Loewen said it was the first time in 12 years he had had a problem at the shop, which is now closed.

Now, the owner of Wild Planet in Osborne Village said officers have visited him, and ordered him to move his merchandise that could be used to smoke pot or face charges.

“They came in two Tuesdays ago and instructed me to remove all my glasswear, pipes [and] bongs off the counter,” said Roman Panchyshyn, who has been operating the shop for 20 years in various locations. “I had 30 days to comply, otherwise I would be in the same predicament as [Loewen].”

Now, he’s planning to close up shop to get the cops off his back.

“I don’t want to be charged. I am too old to play the game. I don’t want to spend five years in a court room wasting money defending myself over what I think is a harmless, uh, you know, victimless crime,” said Panchyshyn.

In May last year, three locations of The Joint were raided by RCMP but later reopened under new names.

Another head shop, Kustom Kulture, shut down last year in Osborne Village, and one not far away on Corydon Avenue, City Haul, has posted signs saying it is going out of business.

But Winnipeg police say they’re not cracking down on head shops.

The Winnipeg Police Service issued a statement Friday afternoon saying there have not been “any widespread raids targeting these outlets, nor has there been a demand that these businesses cease operations.”

Instead, the statement said officers have been “visiting” local stores “involved in the sale of smoking-related items” since the spring of 2013 to discuss complaints from community members.

“It has to do with the area residents not feeling safe by having those establishments in their neighbourhoods,” said Deputy Police Chief Dave Thorne, adding police respond to citizens complaints.

But multiple head shop owners have said they’re now confused about the rules. Both Loewen and Panchyshyn said they have openly sold the products for years, and many people use them for tobacco or for medical marijuana.

“There needs to be a dialogue. There was no dialogue over this decision,” said Panchyshyn. “I don’t think any store owner would object to sitting down at a table to discuss this.”

Coun. Scott Fielding is the chair of the Winnipeg Police Board. He has been trying to enact zoning bylaws that will force headshops to stay out of areas where there are schools.

“I think the general public would be saying, you know, these shops are existing, that’s one thing, but it’s where they are located,” he said.

But Panchyshyn said the move shows Winnipeg is moving backward while other places south of the border are moving forward. This year, both Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“We are really dumb city,” said Panchyshyn.