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Police Raid Holy Smoke

LdyLunatic

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British Columbia
THE WAR ON DRUGS
Saturday night arrest once again shines the spotlight on controversial Herridge Lane shop

Nelson City Police raided Holy Smoke Saturday evening and arrested Paul DeFelice, one of the controversial culture shop's three owners.

DeFelice was charged with trafficking and possession of a substance and spent four hours in lock-up while police conducted a search of Holy Smoke. DeFelice is not permitted within 50 metres of the store.

"It was a bit frightening at first because this unmarked SUV just came barreling straight at me. I was almost being run down on Herridge Lane, said DeFelice, who was alone at the Holy Smoke store when the police tracked him down. "Then about four, maybe five cops - I couldn't quite keep track of them - all jumped out at once. It instantly turned into a Trailer Park Boys scene."

Speaking on his day off, Sgt. Steve Bank confirmed that the warrant was executed and DeFelice was charged, but could not provide greater detail as it could jeopardize his investigation.

"The warrant was for trafficking in a substance," said Bank, adding that the substance was marijuana. "Further arrests are imminent."

Bank explained that he could not say how long the investigation had been taking place nor why they acted now, but he confirmed that the investigation was ongoing.

According to Sgt. Pat Severyn, the search and arrest was more about the individual that ( than ) the quantity allegedly in possession.

DeFelice said that he was told police did not make a huge mess in the store but he does not know what - if anything - was taken from the premises because he has not yet seen the Information. He said he was told by the police that they used his keys to enter the premises and added that because the issue is now in courts, he could not confirm or deny if he or Holy Smoke sells marijuana or other drugs.

"It's pretty much mostly paraphenelia ( paraphernalia ), papers, hikes, literature. We have a little cafe that's not running at this exact moment. We're between operators. We try and keep a cafe running with coffee and baked goods,' said DeFelice.

The store, which is just a few months shy of celebrating its 10th anniversary, has been raided before. Most famously, it was raided on the day of its first anniversary in 1997, but the charges against were dropped.

According to DeFelice, the warrant was issued to Det. Paul Burkart by telephone and indicates that police had reasonable grounds to search for cannabis, cannabis resin and psilocybin - the latter of which is an ingredient in mushrooms - a thing in which such a substance is contained or concealed in, and offense-related property that would afford evidence in respect of an offense under the Controlled Drug Substances Act, including debt/price lists, score sheets, weigh scales, packaging materials related to cannabis, cannabis resin and psilocybin, as well as documents and cash relevant to the investigation.

DeFelice said police showed him their identification and a female police officer handcuffed him behind his back. He said that another two officers were going through his backpack until he asked them to see the arrest and search warrants. According to DeFelice, the officers told him "you'll see it when it's appropriate."

"Then I realized I don't have any witnesses so I started yelling pretty loudly - basically at the top of my lungs - trying to get the attention from a neighbour until finally a neighbour a couple doors up came out and witnessed what was going on," said DeFelice. "They [the neighbour] pointed out that the police didn't have a warrant. I started naming some people that he might get a hold of but he didn't know any of them though."

DeFelice questioned the timing of the arrest - in the evening on a weekend after business hours - and said he had to leave a message on lawyer Donald Skogstad's answering machine at home. He was then in contact with a Vancouver legal aid lawyer.

According to DeFelice, he has been charged of possession of a substance on July 15 contrary to Section 4( 1 ) of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act and two identical counts of trafficking on a substance on June 2 under Section 5( 1 ) of the same act. He is due for his first appearance in court on October 3.

"My lawyer tells me that more can still come out of this. That they can swear new charges. They can alter one that they've made," said DeFelice.

DeFelice is not surprised by the raid or by his arrest. He explained that since the change in the federal government, police have been given marching orders to make the "small-time" busts.

"It's pretty screwed priorities when there's murders and violence and robberies, home invasions that they make the priority in something where there's no victim and no complainants," said DeFelice.

Holy Smoke owner Alan MIddlemiss said that he believes the directorate to crackdown on Holy Smoke may also come from Mayor John Dooley, who is the chair of the police board. Dooley, however, denied that there was any political involvement.

"As far as politicians are concerned - we have absolutely nothing to do with the day to day operations of the city police," he said. "The police carry out their duties based on keeping law and order in the community and politics has absolutely nothing to do with it."

When asked what he thought of Holy Smoke's presence in Nelson, Dooley said he didn't know much about it.

"If anybody in the community is carrying on anything [allegedly] illegal, the police are going to be investigating it and taking action. That's what we have a police force for," he explained, adding that if you're not doing anything illegal, the police won't be looking for you.

DeFelice said this incident is "all good" when asked if it was what he wanted.

"The idea is in the long run we want to be left alone because we're not hurting anybody but at the same time, if they want to come after us, plenty of arguments that we want to make in court, plenty of answers to legal questions that I want to hear. I want to hold the powers that be to account," he said. "I want to educate the public and if they're going to shine a spotlight on me and give me a platform, I'll definitely use it."
 

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