News / Winnipeg

Head shop owners consider national trade association after Winnipeg arrests

The recent arrest of a city head shop owner — and closures of at least two similar Winnipeg stores — has sparked talk among those in the business across Canada about forming a trade association for future dealings with community members and lawmakers.

Activist Randy Caine, who operates three head shops in B.C., was in Winnipeg Tuesday for a press conference organized by opponents of the alleged crackdown on Winnipeg head shops and told Metro he’s already doing the legwork needed to start a “united front” for Canadian head shop owners.

“I think it’s a very progressive part of any industry as it begins to grow,” he explained, noting the association would have rules and a code of practices members could point to for community members and stakeholders worried about a shop opening up in their neighbourhood. “Because there’s concerns, there can be misunderstandings.”

Head shops have long existed with a wink and a nod—as long as the customer doesn’t say they’re using their purchase for illegal purposes and the proprietor only sells their wares for legal tobacco smoking purposes, no one is doing anything illegal.

But that quiet peace was disrupted in Winnipeg in late January when Hemp Haven owner Jeremy Loewen was arrested in his store and charged with possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime, and selling instruments for illegal drug use.

Police deny Loewen’s arrest is part of a concerted effort to pressure head shops to close.

Loewen spoke at Tuesday’s press conference, telling media he fully supports the trade association idea, and called for an open dialogue with lawmakers in Winnipeg to clear the air about what head shops can and can’t sell.

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