The commanding officer of the Vancouver Police Department's Vice and Drug
Section, the man who is on the front line of the country's fiercest battle
against marijuana growers, believes the drug should be legalized.

Not an easy position for one of Canada's top cops.

But Insp. Kash Heed has rarely done anything the easy way. He is one of a
select few on the prosecution side of the drug war who is willing to think
out-of-the-box, conventional wisdom be damned.

"I think I give more of a contemporary solution," said Heed, an unflinching
cop who has been thrust into the headlines, turned into a quasi-celebrity
because of his policing methods.


"Sometimes it's not appreciated by others, people in policing. Sometimes I
even have problems convincing people in my own organization. But the
prohibition of marijuana use has been a failure."

Heed now concentrates his policing efforts on grow operations and has just
about given up on possession.

When it comes to marijuana growth in British Columbia during the past
decade, the statistics the police arm themselves with are utterly

In 1991, the Vancouver police drug unit busted 23 grow operations estimated
to be worth $2.6 million. In 2001, led by Heed, they took out 635 with a
value of $160 million -- unquestionably a lot but a staggeringly minute
percentage of what the police claim is being grown each year.

How much pot is being grown in B.C.? No one really knows. The province's
Organized Crime Agency has studied the issue and estimates the pot industry
wholesale at $6 billion. That would make it the largest in the province,
comparable in size to logging and forest products ($5.6 billion), mining
($3.7 billion), and manufacturing ($3.4 billion).

The OCA estimates there are 25,000 provincial grow operations employing up
to 150,000 people, making marijuana one of the province's biggest employers.

"It was British Columbia's problem for years but once the problem went east
of the Rockies, it became Canada's problem," Heed said. "Now they will begin
to see what we have been dealing with."

Heed has sided with pro-marijuana lobby groups in a belief that the only way
to stop the crime associated with marijuana, the only way to take out the
organized crime, is to legalize it.

Pot smokers call B.C.'s biggest city Vansterdam, a sly reference to Europe's
marijuana utopia in Holland.


It lives up to the name. In Vancouver, on a spring-like winter day, a group
of tourists are baffled when they walk along the shopping district on Robson
St., following long trails of pot smoke as police stand idly by.

On a weekend evening, Colin wants to score some pot on his way home from
watching a high school basketball game. He stops in the city's bar district
on Granville Street.

The area is buzzing, there are long lineups at several nightclubs. Colin
isn't interested. He barely has to get out of the cab before he catches a
man's attention. Five minutes later Colin is back in the cab, on his way
home, with $40 of high-grade marijuana. A cop is near but he's not paying

Along West Hastings Street, a string of "pot cafes" no different than any in
Amsterdam -- where pot rather than caffeine is the drug of choice -- are
probably Canada's most visible sign of defiance against the prohibition of

Last year, Vancouver was voted the world's best tourist destination for
marijuana smokers, according to High Times magazine, selected over perennial
winner Amsterdam. The city's "pot cafes," the seeming tolerance for bud and
the availability of locally grown pot were all factors.


"You could walk down the street (smoking pot) and no one bothers you,"
editor Dan Skye said.

The tourists agree.

"This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen," said Seattle's Ryan Gan,
22, in one of the cafes on a recent visit. "Here I am, allowed to smoke all
the marijuana I want without worrying about cops."

Small-scale possession is virtually unenforced by the police department. The
Vancouver cops call it de-facto decriminalization.

Police in Ontario call it giving up.

"I think in B.C. they've surrendered," Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino
said. "We're going to do what we can to fight the problems that come with

Those are words that make Heed cringe.

"I get accused of a lot of things as any officer does who takes a more
liberal view of enforcement," Heed said. "Sometimes it bothers me but most
other times it just makes me stronger and makes me work harder to get
policing to come into the 21st century."


There is a powerful majority behind Heed. A recent Sun-Leger poll on
pot-smoking habits of Canadians shows a whopping 91% of British Columbians
think marijuana laws should be less stringent while 53% said they had smoked

If the marijuana movement in British Columbia is a revolution, the pot
smokers' Che Guevara is Marc Emery. Featured in media all over the world,
his is the hand that has been gesturing marijuana lovers to come to B.C. for
almost a decade.

The gregarious, fast talking, widely acknowledged Prince of Pot has become
the face of the Vancouver marijuana movement. He has run for mayor twice and
is the president of the B.C. Marijuana Party.

Emery is also one of the world's biggest dealers in marijuana seeds and will
make, by his estimates, $3 million this year. He's been arrested 10 times
and has lost his fortune many times over as authorities wiped him out,
collecting his proceeds of crime.

"I don't hide anything," Emery said. "I pay taxes but I try not to own
anything anymore. I've learned."

He is the publisher of the internationally circulated Cannabis Culture
magazine and its Web site and the founder of Pot-TV, an Internet operation
that streams marijuana news, music and cultivation tips.

Emery began this journey in 1994 when he moved to Vancouver. He opened a
store, Hemp BC, in which he sold bongs, pipes, and growbooks -- all illegal
at the time in Canada. He helped dozens of other stores open and although
the items are still against the law, no one seems to mind anymore.

Soon he started selling seeds. His store was first raided in 1996.
Everything was seized. He re-opened the next day.

In 1997, he opened the Cannabis Cafe where he sold seeds and people could
smoke pot safely in a comfortable setting. He had vaporizers installed on
every table. Police tried to stop him, repeatedly raiding the place and
seizing all the store's stock. He kept re-opening until eventually he was
forced to close the store.

"I was strip-searched 10 times and I was put in jail eight times," Emery
said on a recent trip to the Sunshine Coast. "Do you know what it's like to
be strip-searched?"

He was found guilty of numerous counts of trafficking in marijuana seeds but
has never received a sentence more than a "fair fine."


"It just wasn't worth it for them to keep arresting me," Emery said. "As
long I no longer owned anything which could be taken away, getting arrested
didn't matter."

Emery moved his seed business to the Internet and he sells thousands a

He is dedicated to the legalization of marijuana and has given funds to most
major court challenges since 2000. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars
on the B.C. Marijuana Party during the last campaign and he has donated to
various pro-pot ballot initiatives in the U.S.

"Fighting marijuana is so easy for police officers," Emery said. "They get
to run in with explosions, SWAT teams and bullet- proof jackets to arrest
people holding garden hoses."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will soon open an office in
Vancouver to help fight the export of B.C. Bud, which has gained mythic
status and is thought to be some of the most potent pot on the market. The
DEA has produced a seven-page intelligence brief detailing the pot which is
notorious for its high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the mood-altering
property found in marijuana.

"Such marijuana has a THC content ranging from 15% to as much as 25%," the
DEA said in a report about the growth of the Canadian marijuana trade.
"(It's) far more potent than the naturally grown cannabis plants of the
1970s, which had a THC content of only 2%."

But an RCMP report on drugs in 2001 states: "The average THC content of all
samples analysed since 1995 is about 6%."

But people don't believe that. They are convinced B.C. produces the best bud
and that has steadied a strong demand in the U.S.

"The important thing I keep pointing out to people is that the majority of
marijuana being produced in this country is destined for markets in the
U.S.," Heed said.

"Only 15% of the marijuana grown here is for domestic consumption. If you
apply simple economic theory, you will understand people are going to
produce it, to supply that demand. They won't be stopped.

"The marijuana business is run like a Fortune 500 company."


The U.S. Customs Service reported marijuana seizures along the B.C. and
Washington State border.

1994 147kg

1995 348kg

1996 756kg

1997 908kg

1998 1,179kg

1999 1,315kg

2000 1,521kg

2001 1,905kg

Pubdate: Wed, 30 Apr 2003
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Canoe Limited Partnership