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Police raids on head shops deflate Wild Planet owner

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Wild Planet owner Roman Panchyshyn says he's selling the business.

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Wild Planet owner Roman Panchyshyn says he's selling the business. Photo Store

A Winnipeg police crackdown on local head shops has claimed its first store.

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 Thursday. "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.

"If police continue this, I just don't know where they're going to go in the future to buy a vaporizer or something like that."

Panchyshyn said he made the decision after police raids on the Joint about three weeks ago and Hemp Haven last week.

Earlier this week, Jeremy Loewen, owner of Hemp Haven on Larsen Avenue in Elmwood, told the Free Press police entered his shop last week and charged him 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 said other head-shop owners have been warned by police they have to close their shops within 30 days or the police will raid them, too. The owner of the Joint declined comment.

In a statement late Wednesday, Winnipeg police Det.-Sgt. Natalie Aitken confirmed a 42-year-old man was charged with two counts after his arrest Jan. 27. She said the investigation began after police received complaints from the public.

"In the spring of 2013, as a result of receiving numerous community complaints, members of the East District community support unit entered into an investigation regarding the distribution of drug-related paraphernalia," Aitken said.

After hearing the response from Winnipeg police, Loewen's lawyer, Neil Kravetsky, said Thursday he still doesn't understand why his client was charged.

"I'd like to know if there was a Crown opinion on this," Kravetsky said.

"It's in a very old area of the Criminal Code. If something like that sticks in this modern age, I'll be flabbergasted."

Panchyshyn said it would help if he and other head-shop owners knew for sure what items they have for sale that police are concerned about.

"I sell papers. Are they concerned about that?" he asked.

"The difficulty is there is no list of what needs to go. Why isn't there a meeting to say what needs to go? This stuff is 10 per cent of my store space, but it generates the money to keep us in business."

The owner of the Canadian Medical Marijuana Clinic in Brandon fired off a letter to Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis Thursday protesting the crackdown.

Jade Ridge said in an interview people need the proper resources and the expertise of the shopkeepers to cope with their illnesses.

"It's preposterous. I don't know what's driving that," Ridge said from Brandon.

"Bullying tactics in Winnipeg are not cool. Sick people need those kind of places for the resources to educate themselves to take the products properly. There's nothing illegal going on there. We really highly rely on these shops."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2014 B1

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Updated on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:33 AM CST: Replaces photo

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