Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crown stays charges against head-shop owner

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A crackdown by police on owners of head shops in Winnipeg may be falling apart with news charges against one owner are being stayed.

Hemp Haven owner Jeremy Loewen has learned from his lawyer charges against him won't proceed.

Neil Kravetsky, Loewen's lawyer, said he believes the Crown looked over the police charges and found there was nothing to prosecute. "I don't believe a Crown attorney in Winnipeg in the year 2014 would authorize the laying of that charge," he said.

"These guys did a number on him, the cops did," said Kravetsky. "They tried to do a number on all these (head-shop owners) and it didn't work. They were interfering with these guys' businesses."

Loewen was part of a crackdown by police on owners of several Winnipeg head shops. Head shops sell tobacco, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia.

Hemp Haven is on Larsen Avenue in Elmwood.

Loewen was charged with selling an instrument for drug use and possession of property obtained by crime after a couple purchased a water pipe at his shop.

Loewen wants to get on with his life. He is scheduled to travel next month to trade shows for "smoke ware" in Phoenix, Detroit and Denver. A criminal record would bar him from entering the United States.

"I'm relieved. I was positive it was going to happen (his exoneration) because I didn't do anything wrong. It's the right decision not to waste taxpayer money and waste my time and money," Loewen said.

The ordeal has cost him $15,000 to $20,000 in lost sales for the eight days he was shut down, and legal fees, he said. Some employees have also left.

Loewen said he has received support from customers, one of whom even dropped off a bottle of wine as a gift.

Loewen scoffed when told of a report he was never charged in the first place. "I have the paperwork in my pocket," he said. Kravetsky said Loewen was charged and scheduled to appear in court on March 1 in courtroom No. 302. He was also scheduled to be fingerprinted.

In a statement released earlier this month, Winnipeg police said it "wishes to clarify that there have not been any widespread 'raids' targeting these outlets, nor has there been a demand that these businesses cease operations."

Police said only one person had been charged in connection with "a specific incident at one of these retail outlets."

"Since the spring of 2013, officers have been visiting many of the local stores to discuss complaints brought forward by community members, organizations and school administrators," the statement said.

"The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to working with business owners and concerned community stakeholders to address the matter."

Earlier this month, Roman Panchyshyn, owner of the decades-old Wild Planet on Osborne Street, said he has put the building up for sale.

"I don't have the fight in me," Panchyshyn said last week. "I don't want to waste five years of my life fighting this. I don't want to be arrested. I've been in business for 34 years and I know Wild Planet makes people happy. I probably have dozens of cancer patients coming here."

Panchyshyn said he made the decision after police raids on other head shops.

-- staff

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2014 A12

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