All bongs, pipes and vaporizers have been banned in Canada by the Conservative government. Selling these items is punishable with jail terms and some of the highest fines in the Criminal Code.
Books that describe how to grow marijuana are also banned, as is any other written or video material used to "promote, encourage or advocate, the production, preparation or consumption of illicit drugs."
The law, section 462.2 of the Criminal Code, is so broad that even promoting any "literature or instruments for illicit drug use" can get you six months in prison and a $100,000 fine for the first offence, and a year behind bars plus a $300,000 fine for the second offence.
Bookstores like Chapters and Amazon fall under the law, since they sell many pro-marijuana books and videos. But police raids have only focused on cannabis culture oriented shops.
Surprised about this harsh law? Don't be, it's 25 years old -- enacted back in 1988 by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.
BANNING THE COUNTER-CULTURE
This clearly unconstitutional law passed with unanimous consent of all parties in Parliament, only Svend Robinson of the NDP was brave enough to vote against it.
The law was used to quickly shut down hundreds of counter-culture and "head shops" across the country, and to ban magazines like High Times from entering Canada.
You might think that this law isn't in force anymore, since it's pretty easy to buy a bong or vaporizer in any major city, and many smaller towns.
However, the ban on bongs remains in force, and stores still regularly get raided across Canada. The ban on literature was overturned in Ontario, but still remains in force in other provinces.
20 YEARS OF COURT BATTLES
In 1992, RCMP raided the offices of NORML Canada in Toronto. NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) was a prominent lobby group; cops seized their membership list and flyers promoting legalization of marijuana.
NORML fought the law, backed financially by "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery's fledgling bong and seed businesses. In 1995 the Ontario Courts declared the prohibition on literature to be a violation of Charter Rights, and struck it down.
However, because the case wasn't appealed to the Supreme Court, the law against literature has only been overturned in Ontario, and is still in force across the rest of Canada. Indeed, an Alberta judge had previously ruled that Section 462.2 didn't violate Charter rights.
Sometimes police just ignore court decisions they don't like. Police in Timmins, Ontario tried to pull Cannabis Culture Magazine off store shelves in 2000, even though the law against literature had been overturned.
It took Marc Emery openly selling Cannabis Culture in front of the Timmins police station before the police backed down and ultimately apologized.
No-one busts Bong Man!
POLICE RAIDS FOR BONGS CONTINUE
Before he started selling marijuana seeds in a big way, Marc Emery was raided several times in the 1990s for selling bongs and pipes, and even has a criminal record for "promoting vaporizers" at his Cannabis Cafe.
Dozens of other police raids against other new headshops happened in the 90s, and have continued over the years.
Indeed, it was Emery's example with his successful Hemp BC store, and his accompanying wholesale business, that really kickstarted the modern wave of headshops that have defiantly opened over the past two decades, despite the federal law.
Yet even with bongs and pipes being sold at hundreds of stores across Canada, the laws remain in force. Raids, seizures and harassment continue to this day.
Marc Emery posing with forbidden pipes
Back in 2007, Calgary cops spent four months investigating before raiding four headshops in the city for selling bongs.
In January of this year, the Alberta city of St. Albert tried to ban bong shops with a city bylaw, but they were defeated in court.
RCMP RAID WINNIPEG'S JOINT
About three weeks ago, RCMP raided The Joint, a headshop with three outlets in Winnipeg. The stores had been open for over four years with no police problems in that time.
Police claimed the sudden raids were spurred by copyright violations, and it's true that the shops do appear to have been selling some bongs with faces of SpiderMan, Bart Simpson and Scooby-Doo.
But these kinds of copyright issues are usually dealt with through a cease-and-desist letter from the appropriate lawyer, and not with a police raid on a retailer.
Police used the copyright issue as an excuse to empty the stores. Cops told reporters that they seized 75 per cent of the store's merchandise, even though less than ten per cent had anything to do with copyright.
Raiding a store that has been open and active in the community for over four years is capricious, arbitrary and poor policing.
Usually in these cases, the police don't even bother laying charges. They know the law against bongs is also probably unconstitutional, so they don't risk going to court. Instead they just empty stores of product and try to force them into bankruptcy without the hassle of having a trial.
The potential for this kind of random raid looms over the head of every store that sells bongs or vaporizers in Canada. Section 462.2 can be summoned by the police whenever they like.
DON'T BAN THE BONG
So if you or someone you love is a marijuana user, give a moment of gratitude to Marc Emery and the proprietor of your local headshop. Without their bravery in defying these outdated laws, you might still be having to punch some holes in an empty Coke can to make a pipe.
Bongs, pipes and vaporizers are harm-reduction devices that make marijuana safer to use. A sensible marijuana policy would encourage users to use it in the safest manner possible, and promote the use of vaporizers and water pipes as a harm reduction technique.
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