Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Head shops not closing yet

End of police crackdown prompts second thoughts

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Roman Panchyshyn, owner of Wild Planet, was going to close his business in light of a recent police crackdown on head shops. His lawyer has advised him not to expect any further trouble from police.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Roman Panchyshyn, owner of Wild Planet, was going to close his business in light of a recent police crackdown on head shops. His lawyer has advised him not to expect any further trouble from police. Photo Store

It's early days, but it looks like the chill on Winnipeg head shops is lifting.

The news last week police charges against a head shop owner will not proceed has prompted at least two other store owners to reconsider their earlier decisions to close down their shops.

Last week, the Free Press reported charges against Jeremy Loewen, the owner of Hemp Haven, are likely not going to proceed.

Loewen was charged with selling an instrument for drug use and possession of property obtained by crime.

Other Winnipeg shops that sell tobacco, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia were visited by police and warned they had to find something else to sell.

After the police visits to their stores, Roman Panchyshyn, owner of Wild Planet on Osborne Street, and Matthew Frost, owner of City Haul on Corydon Avenue, said they would close down to avoid more serious legal issues, even though they had been operating without incident for more than 10 years.

Now both of them are rethinking that decision after receiving lots of support from their customers and the community at large.

'Do they (the police) just walk away and say that was badly timed, badly executed? Maybe they go away like they did for the last 20 years'

-- Wild Planet's Roman Panchyshyn

Both had put the wheels in motion to wind their businesses down -- in Panchyshyn's case, putting his building up for sale and Frost informing his landlord he would not be renewing his lease.

Now they are in the process of reviewing their options to close.

"I still need to sit down with my lawyer, but my initial reaction is that if this has become moot..." then maybe he doesn't have to decamp to Vancouver as he was planning, said Wild Planet's Panchyshyn. "My lawyer (Neil Kravetsky) has suggested to me that it should be business as usual without the Crown proceeding with the charges (against Loewen)."

Wild Planet has just had one of its best years and Panchyshyn said he had plans to invest in the store and expand his offerings into record albums.

"Do they (the police) just walk away and say that was badly timed, badly executed?" Panchyshyn said. "Maybe they go away like they did for the last 20 years."

Kravetsky, who is advising both Panchyshyn and Frost, said based on what he has been told by the Crown prosecutors office, they should not expect any further trouble from the police.

"The caveat of course, is that they act within the four corners of the law," Kravetsky said.

'With the outpouring of support I've received, it's hard to turn my back on those that supported me'

-- City Haul owner Matthew Frost

Frost said he's now in a complicated situation with a month-to-month lease, but he doesn't want to close.

"And with the outpouring of support I've received, it's hard to turn my back on those that supported me," he said.

Meanwhile, in light of the controversial police crackdown on head shops, city hall will examine how it can control where these kinds of retailers are located.

On Tuesday morning, the property and development committee instructed administration to consider all regulatory methods, including zoning, to regulate where head shops operate.

The review was prompted after Winnipeg police charged Loewen at his Elmwood store.

Other operators of head shops -- legitimate retailers whose inventory includes materials used in the consumption of marijuana, including rolling papers and pipes of various designs -- including Panchyshyn and Frost said they'd been threatened by police to either remove the materials or face closure.

However, the effect of the police crackdown is being questioned after the Crown's office stayed the charges against the Elmwood operator on the grounds a conviction was unlikely.

The administration will also review how other municipalities deal with head shops.

Frost said he would welcome the imposition of a code of conduct for operators of such stores.

He said if there are those who do sell to minors they should expect to face the consequences but other stores that operate within the law should not have to face harassment.

"The quicker we get that figured out the better," he said.

Panchyshyn said even though his store might be close to a school, he doesn't believe he should be forced to move regardless of what sort of zoning determinations are made.

"The elementary school kids don't come in here," he said. "I can't see this becoming an issue."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2014 B5

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