Vancouver
8 min

The ‘Stonewall’ of the pot movement

Raids at Da Kine parallel start of gay movement

HERBAL POLITICS. Marijuana activists are learning about Pride and fighting back. Credit: Xtra West files

It’s time to repeal our marijuana prohibition laws before the next police raid on a peaceful establishment turns into the chaos that erupted outside The Stonewall Inn, in New York City. When police raided the gay bar June 28, 1969, drag queens, hustlers, johns and leather dykes stood their ground and retaliated with three days of furious rioting.



Back then, any meeting of three or more homosexuals in a bar was reason for the establishment to lose its licence. If a bartender knowingly served homosexuals, the bar could lose its liquor licence. The queer community can empathize with the folks running Da Kine Smoke & Beverage Shop and protest the oppression of cannabis culture after the recent swat-team style raid on the café in September.



Stonewall is a good example of what happens when police, supported by government and antiquated laws, use bully tactics to enforce limits on people’s freedoms. This oppressive mentality-including harassment of Vancouver gays and lesbians-provoked the gay rights movement in the 1960s. Today, the leaders of Vancouver’s cannabis community are just as determined to use civil disobedience to force change. If those drag queens, gay men and lesbians had relented in 1969, chances are we wouldn’t be sitting here now, legally married with anti-harassment laws and the right to adopt children.



The police action at Da Kine has further ignited the indignation of Vancouver’s pot advocates following the August arrest and three-month sentencing of BC Marijuana Party Leader Marc Emery. He was tossed into jail in Saskatchewan after passing one joint, (2.3 grams) to another man. The decision clearly illustrates the persecution that cannabis users still face today: sharing joints is considered trafficking under current law and a charge of trafficking carries a mandatory jail term upon conviction.



People who might puff the odd joint on the weekend are angry at the treatment of the folks at the Da Kine café. It’s the people, not only the pot activists, who are mobilizing now.



Da Kine manager Carol Gwilt feels being thrown in jail for civil disobedience is par for the course. “This is how women got the right to vote. This is how black people got to sit at the front of the bus,” she says. She was surprised at the number of people willing to risk arrest, whether by working in the shop or lining up on the street to purchase marijuana with about as much apprehension as standing in line at the movies.



The Da Kine incident is the latest push in the seemingly never-ending battle to strike down laws governing decisions we make about our own bodies. Pot activists assert that just as women have the right to abortion, and we all have the right to choose who we love, so too, do we have the right to put marijuana in our bodies.



What’s certain is that people are angry and coming out of the green closet in droves. After the police invasion of Da Kine, 10,000 people came forward and signed forms to say that they want to self-prescribe-that, as adults, they are able to make that decision concerning their private lives. They wanted to sign an oath that they find a benefit in using marijuana.



Compassion Clubs are a proven success but our laws haven’t changed significantly to allow the rest of us to enjoy marijuana if we so choose. Change is not coming fast enough for those waiting on the sidelines, too healthy to get a doctor’s certificate to legally use medicinal marijuana, but plagued by symptoms alleviated by the weed. Is civil disobedience the only way to move this issue forward?



Police stand back during the yearly Marijuana March and watch while hundreds light and smoke joints in their faces with their middle fingers raised. Will the current marijuana laws change as a result of an amendment to legislation or will police respond by spilling the blood of an increasingly frustrated group of citizens. It’s anyone’s guess. Alcohol prohibition did not end without violence. Let’s hope government has learned from the past. Pot smokers are tired of hiding behind bushes and misleading friends and family in order to enjoy their medicine, or their recreation-call it what you want, it’s their bodies.



Cannabis culture continues to embrace civil disobedience as the means to push for an end to pot prohibition. We don’t want gatekeepers; we are grown-ups. We don’t agree with government regulation of marijuana or decriminalization, and we sure don’t believe we need two doctors’ written permission to use an herb that we baby-boomers have been using for decades.



Prohibition against a recreational drug of choice leads mainly to one thing: organized crime running the supply lines. Government’s proper role should be to ensure a high quality product and to tax pot to help pay for social programs.



A Gallup Poll in March showed only 22 percent of Canadians support laws against marijuana possession. Even a report for the rightwing Fraser Institute concluded in June that pot growing and use in this country is so widespread that Parliament should tax and regulate it like any other legal product.



What will city council decide when Da Kine’s business license hearing comes before it on Oct 6? Since the raid, street drug dealers are taking advantage of all the media attention and are out in the neighborhood full force, in back laneways, in the dark, filling the demand for cannabis left by the enforced prohibition at the café. Pot advocates insist marijuana prohibition laws be declared null and void because the prohibition is not working.



There’s a sign on the wall at Da Kine that says: “Wear Your Pride.” Beside it is a collection of T-shirts with pot leaves and pro-marijuana slogans. How many of us have the nerve to come out of the closet again and put a face to the pot smoker? How many of us have told our parents we smoke marijuana and hide our weed smoking from friends and co-workers?



The pot community is learning from the gay community to stand strong and proclaim: “We’re here, we’re smoking pot-and you can’t make us stop!”it’s time to repeal our marijuana prohibition laws before the next police raid on a peaceful establishment turns into the chaos that erupted outside The Stonewall Inn, in New York City. When police raided the gay bar June 28, 1969, drag queens, hustlers, johns and leather dykes stood their ground and retaliated with three days of furious rioting.



Back then, any meeting of three or more homosexuals in a bar was reason for the establishment to lose its licence. If a bartender knowingly served homosexuals, the bar could lose its liquor licence. The queer community can empathize with the folks running Da Kine Smoke & Beverage Shop and protest the oppression of cannabis culture after the recent swat-team style raid on the café in September.



Stonewall is a good example of what happens when police, supported by government and antiquated laws, use bully tactics to enforce limits on people’s freedoms. This oppressive mentality-including harassment of Vancouver gays and lesbians-provoked the gay rights movement in the 1960s. Today, the leaders of Vancouver’s cannabis community are just as determined to use civil disobedience to force change. If those drag queens, gay men and lesbians had relented in 1969, chances are we wouldn’t be sitting here now, legally married with anti-harassment laws and the right to adopt children.



The police action at Da Kine has further ignited the indignation of Vancouver’s pot advocates following the August arrest and three-month sentencing of BC Marijuana Party Leader Marc Emery. He was tossed into jail in Saskatchewan after passing one joint, (2.3 grams) to another man. The decision clearly illustrates the persecution that cannabis users still face today: sharing joints is considered trafficking under current law and a charge of trafficking carries a mandatory jail term upon conviction.



People who might puff the odd joint on the weekend are angry at the treatment of the folks at the Da Kine café. It’s the people, not only the pot activists, who are mobilizing now.



Da Kine manager Carol Gwilt feels being thrown in jail for civil disobedience is par for the course. “This is how women got the right to vote. This is how black people got to sit at the front of the bus,” she says. She was surprised at the number of people willing to risk arrest, whether by working in the shop or lining up on the street to purchase marijuana with about as much apprehension as standing in line at the movies.



The Da Kine incident is the latest push in the seemingly never-ending battle to strike down laws governing decisions we make about our own bodies. Pot activists assert that just as women have the right to abortion, and we all have the right to choose who we love, so too, do we have the right to put marijuana in our bodies.



What’s certain is that people are angry and coming out of the green closet in droves. After the police invasion of Da Kine, 10,000 people came forward and signed forms to say that they want to self-prescribe-that, as adults, they are able to make that decision concerning their private lives. They wanted to sign an oath that they find a benefit in using marijuana.



Compassion Clubs are a proven success but our laws haven’t changed significantly to allow the rest of us to enjoy marijuana if we so choose. Change is not coming fast enough for those waiting on the sidelines, too healthy to get a doctor’s certificate to legally use medicinal marijuana, but plagued by symptoms alleviated by the weed. Is civil disobedience the only way to move this issue forward?



Police stand back during the yearly Marijuana March and watch while hundreds light and smoke joints in their faces with their middle fingers raised. Will the current marijuana laws change as a result of an amendment to legislation or will police respond by spilling the blood of an increasingly frustrated group of citizens. It’s anyone’s guess. Alcohol prohibition did not end without violence. Let’s hope government has learned from the past. Pot smokers are tired of hiding behind bushes and misleading friends and family in order to enjoy their medicine, or their recreation-call it what you want, it’s their bodies.



Cannabis culture continues to embrace civil disobedience as the means to push for an end to pot prohibition. We don’t want gatekeepers; we are grown-ups. We don’t agree with government regulation of marijuana or decriminalization, and we sure don’t believe we need two doctors’ written permission to use an herb that we baby-boomers have been using for decades.



Prohibition against a recreational drug of choice leads mainly to one thing: organized crime running the supply lines. Government’s proper role should be to ensure a high quality product and to tax pot to help pay for social programs.



A Gallup Poll in March showed only 22 percent of Canadians support laws against marijuana possession. Even a report for the rightwing Fraser Institute concluded in June that pot growing and use in this country is so widespread that Parliament should tax and regulate it like any other legal product.



What will city council decide when Da Kine’s business license hearing comes before it on Oct 6? Since the raid, street drug dealers are taking advantage of all the media attention and are out in the neighborhood full force, in back laneways, in the dark, filling the demand for cannabis left by the enforced prohibition at the café. Pot advocates insist marijuana prohibition laws be declared null and void because the prohibition is not working.



There’s a sign on the wall at Da Kine that says: “Wear Your Pride.” Beside it is a collection of T-shirts with pot leaves and pro-marijuana slogans. How many of us have the nerve to come out of the closet again and put a face to the pot smoker? How many of us have told our parents we smoke marijuana and hide our weed smoking from friends and co-workers?



The pot community is learning from the gay community to stand strong and proclaim: “We’re here, we’re smoking pot-and you can’t make us stop!”