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Hashing out their differences

Head-shop owners, police agree on plan to appease area residents

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Matthew Frost, owner of the City Haul head shop on Corydon Avenue, says his store has always been diligent in demanding identification and keeps a discreet storefront.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Matthew Frost, owner of the City Haul head shop on Corydon Avenue, says his store has always been diligent in demanding identification and keeps a discreet storefront. Photo Store

A truce of sorts has been declared in the skirmish between head shops and Winnipeg police.

Earlier this week, owners of the Joint, a St. Vital store that sells pipes and other smoking paraphernalia that had been raided by police last year, met with Winnipeg police and others including city Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital).

The Winnipeg Police Service called the meeting to try to come to a resolution that would quell the concerns of local residents.

"It worked out very well," Mayes said.

Effectively, the arrangement was the Joint would be diligent about not selling to minors and to come up with a more discrete storefront presence, including frosted storefront windows.

'We've always been very discreet. If you drive by my store on Corydon, you really couldn't tell what the store was from the outside'

-- City Haul owner Matthew Frost

In the past, the Joint had undertaken some fairly aggressive marketing strategies that included a provocative portable sign. As well, since it was located at the corner of St. Anne's Road and St. Mary's Road near high schools, Mayes said there has been plenty of complaints from parents and schools.

"I've had virtually no complaints for several months," Mayes said.

Owners of the Joint and officials from the Winnipeg Police Service were not available for comment but Mayes said the meeting was amicable and productive.

Earlier this year, after other head-shop owners complained about police visits to their stores warning them to stop selling the smoking paraphernalia, there was talk at city hall about regulating the locations of such shops.

But Mayes said the sit-down with police and the Joint owners went a long way to solving the issue.

"To the credit of the police, instead of us wrestling with zoning changes for the next two years trying to define this stuff... if people can work it out this way, that's the best course," he said.

The agreement hashed out at the meeting was something other Winnipeg head-shop owners were glad to hear about, though none of them was part of the meeting.

One other shop owner was charged with some offences -- which have subsequently been stayed -- and two others were visited by police and warned to stop selling the smoking devices.

None of them has had any other dealings with police and all say it is now business as usual.

The owners of those three other stores -- City Haul, Hemp Haven and Wild Planet -- all declared they practise those very same standards -- refusing to sell to minors and maintaining a low-key storefront presence.

Matthew Frost, the owner of City Haul on Corydon Avenue, was visited by police earlier this year and warned to stop selling his pipes and smoking devices.

The visit caused plenty of anxiety and forced Frost to contemplate closing the store.

But he said he has always been careful to check ID and refuses to sell pipes to minors, while maintaining a low-key storefront. The store remains open and Frost hopes he can keep it that way.

"We've always been very discreet," Frost said. "If you drive by my store on Corydon, you really couldn't tell what the store was from the outside."

Winnipeg lawyer Neil Kravetsky has told Frost and other head-shop owners that based on what he has been told by the Crown prosecutors' office, they should not expect any further trouble from the police.

Jeremy Loewen, owner of Hemp Haven, was charged but has subsequently had the charges stayed. He said his problems with police have cost him $20,000, but he remains optimistic he'll be able to continue to operate as he has for more than 15 years.

Loewen has taken out newspaper ads thanking customers for sticking with him and supporting him, and has not had any more dealings with the police.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2014 B4

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