Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drug paraphernalia with cartoon characters seized, RCMP say

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THERE were dozens of colourful bongs sporting the likenesses of popular animated characters such as Scooby-Doo, Elmo and Homer Simpson.

But RCMP say there was nothing comical about a recent stroll through three Winnipeg head shops that triggered a quick investigation that ended Wednesday with a series of raids and seizures.

Approximately 75 per cent of the entire stock of The Joint was removed Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation being touted as the first of its kind in Winnipeg. No formal charges have been laid yet, but investigators say it's only a matter of time.

Cpl. John Montgomery said Thursday the seized merchandise falls under the definition of drug paraphernalia, which is illegal to sell under the Criminal Code. As well, many of the products also violate the Copyright Act because they contain protected images that belong to groups such as Looney Tunes, Nintendo and Angry Birds.

There were even some glass pipes outfitted with NHL team logos found inside the stores.

"The NHL doesn't endorse drug paraphernalia," said Montgomery.

The RCMP's federal enforcement section spearheaded the investigation, made easy by the fact all the items were in plain view for anyone to see.

The Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba Finance also assisted in executing search warrants at all three outlets of The Joint on St. Mary's Road, Pembina Highway and Marion Street.

"Criminals involved in intellectual-property crime -- copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting -- range from organized-crime groups to small-scale retailers who sell small quantities of counterfeit goods to supplement their income," said Montgomery.

One male store employee was arrested and is facing charges of possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) for the purpose of trafficking.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A11

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