A local head shop owner says he believes Winnipeg police have launched a new way of making businesses like his go up in smoke -- financially starve them out of business.
Jeremy Loewen, owner of the shuttered Hemp Haven at 496 Larsen Ave. in Elmwood, said Tuesday that's what's happening to him and fellow head shop owners after he was arrested by police last week and had numerous items seized after selling a water pipe to "a 40-year-old couple."
Loewen said he was charged with selling an instrument for drug use and possession of property obtained by crime.
"When I said 'What am I not allowed to sell,' they (police) said nothing," he said.
"They're going to all the (head) stores and threatening they have to close within 30 days or we'll do the same to you what we did to Hemp Haven and The Joint."
Loewen said police went to The Joint about three weeks ago. That business's three locations -- the Marion Street location has since closed for business reasons -- were also raided last year with arrests being made, but the matter is still winding through the courts.
Nobody would comment at The Joint about what happened during the latest visit by police, but the business, which still has outlets on Pembina Highway and St. Mary's Road, remains open.
Loewen said while he's now closed, he has also had to go to the expense of hiring a lawyer to fight the charges.
"I don't know what I'll do. I have bills still coming in," he said. "I think this is just a tactic to put me out of business."
Winnipeg police said they could not comment until after they had spoken with the investigating officer today.
Lawyer Neil Kravetsky, who is representing Loewen and some other shops, is calling the actions taken by police "very unfair and hassling these people."
"These businesses have been going on, some for over 20 years... and there are now over 100,000 people in Canada with legal medical marijuana licences who get the instruments they need to smoke through businesses like this.
"So why are police hassling them?"
Kravetsky said each of the shops has signs saying they do not sell the items for illegal drug use, the individual items have the same warning label, and the shops do not sell to anyone under the age of 18.
"It's like charging a pharmacist for selling syringes to somebody who later uses it for heroin," the lawyer said.
"It is bullying and interfering with a legitimate business in my view."
Loewen said after he was arrested and taken to the East District police station at 1750 Dugald Rd., he was charged again, this time with disturbing the peace, for an incident while he was being released.
"The police called me a cab," Loewen said. "I said I didn't have enough money to go anywhere because my store was locked and the keys were inside with my wallet and when I called nobody was home. (The officer) said 'Too bad'. Under my breath I said 'This is bull -'... he grabbed me, threw me back inside and charged me."