As someone recently stated, Prohibition 2.0 is on the rise with the fallible legalization of Cannabis in Canada. The definition of this statement has so far proven to be muddy moving forward with the proposed Bill C-45, a.k.a. the “new” Cannabis Act which will ultimately generate a deeper underground community and incriminate many. Outlined in this new proposal is a pitfire of over-exhausting Cannabis policies and understudied laws awaiting a future crossroad to be later challenged in court.
Cannabis has always been an unpredictable tide, and has washed away many things metaphorically speaking. Tax money spent on arrests for Cannabis is one example and it needs to stop. It is a ridiculous notion that Cannabis is harmful, when in fact it’s the laws that make it harmful. Ultimately Cannabis advocates are being bullied and arrested into a corporatization of government managed Cannabis (60,000+ Cannabis related arrests since Trudeau came to bat). In addition, this leaves little room for sensible Cannabis regulatory improvement because there is no personal dialogue permitted when Cannabis advocates are unjustly getting arrested and possess the most knowledge. Without any real conversation about being a part of the changes, how are Canadians supposed to transition together?
Canadian Corporate Cannabis made its mark in 2013, when the Canadian government decided to expand licensed production and offer “law-abiding” citizens who had the money to risk in order to have an opportunity to become a Licensed Producer. Many applied and many were denied. The long winded unreasonable application process to become a Licensed Producer placed many in a defeated financial hole and left many feeling outraged. Ultimately, this generated an opportunity for dispensaries to thrive in a “forbidden” corporate industry, which now poses as a declaration of personal freedom for the people, by the people… and a seemingly threat to existing licensed producers. As the darkest days proceed, the Cannabis advocacy strengthens, and divides.
Perseverance and integrity are characteristics that exist far and few between.This is the highlight of two remarkable humans who have united to stand up for their beliefs and continue to push the envelope with ethics, professionalism and business transparency. Don and Carol of Vancouver British Columbia Canada, are two Cannabis crusaders who have been victims of prohibition, and who have served unjust time for Cannabis “crimes” in Canada. They have endured the trenches through the war on drugs and continue to watch through the looking glass of what’s to come of legal weed in Canada.
Don Briere and Carol Gwilt of Vancouver BC are Cannabis entrepreneurs who are owners and proprietors of WEEDS® Glass and Gifts. Don’s crusade for Cannabis began in the 1990’s when he was arrested for Cannabis cultivation and trafficking in 1999. The lack of employment opportunities in British Columbia steered him to Cannabis cultivation in addition to knowing that is was safer than alcohol. Cannabis cultivation and businesses are a huge part of BC’s economy today. Don served 4 years in federal prison
Carol’s crusade started with Hemp originally when she took it upon herself to learn about hemp and hemp prohibition. She found it fascinating that such a versatile plant was banned and illegal. So she pursued a cafe and hemp store partnership out in Maple Ridge BC., where they allowed people to come and smoke weed and socialize. Carol became interested in Cannabis when a close friend of hers introduced her to the Hash plant which ultimately warded off he ailments from her ongoing vertigo disorder. Her interest in Hemp and Cannabis led her to become more involved with Cannabis as medicine, and more involved with her community. Shortly after she met Don and wanted to open up a compassion club. This story begins around 15 years ago when ‘Da Kine’ was created to help medical patients access Cannabis for medicinal purposes. Ultimately, they were arrested for trafficking Cannabis and were forced to close down four months into it. They have paved their lives according to their beliefs in Cannabis and continue to endorse their beliefs today. 15 years later, they have become the leaders in the Cannabis community with 20 franchise locations across Canada. Standing their ground, they continue to march on and advocate to assist adult Canadians access lab tested Cannabis and Cannabis products for personal use, which is also assisting to eradicate the real black market. With a solid business infrastructure, WEEDS® Glass and Gifts has set the bar high for other aspiring Cannabis companies to compete. Outside of taking remarkable care of their clients, they take care of their own staff too. From competitive wages and dental and health benefits, they also invest in their employees futures giving them a sense of security and appreciation for being a part of Team WEEDS®. Here is the interview on how their WEEDS® journey started.
Interview & Audio Open Dialogue:
JR- Describe your childhood.
DON- I was born in New Westminster in 1951. I have two brothers and a sister. I had a great childhood with fantastic loving parents. I loved to play baseball and had lots of friends I am still in contact with to this day. I went to Catholic Boys School and left after grade nine to work and get married. My first son was born when I was 17.
CAROL- Stressful. I am the 9th of 10 children from the same mom and dad. I have 7 older brothers and 1 younger brother. My only sister was the first born. For the first 10 years we lived in a townhouse in Ottawa and then moved to a small house in Kanata. I watched many times my teenage brothers being dealt with by law enforcement for drug and alcohol use.
JR- What values did were you taught growing up that you carry today?
DON- Family comes first. Hard work, reliability, try to learn something new everyday.
CAROL- Hard work, honesty and integrity.
JR- What were some rules you had at home growing up? Did you agree with them then? Now?
DON- Be home for supper. If you fall down, get up and dust yourself off. Don’t be out late. Respect everyone and be kind to animals.
JR- What did you do as a teen that made you rebellious, if anything? And, if you rebelled, what drove you to?
DON- I liked smoking Cannabis, which my parents did not approve of.
CAROL- I butted heads a lot with my mother. I had a boyfriend they hated so I ran away with him to another city when I was 15.
JR- Did you ever face any medical issues as a child or teen? As an adult? If so, explain.
DON- I had bronchial pneumonia as a baby and chronic bronchitis growing up. I was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1974 that changed the course of my life.
CAROL- I had a head injury when I was 7 and was left with a permanent vertigo disorder that I was unable to understand or manage until I was an adult (and found Cannabis as a medicine).
JR- How did you find highschool? Did you fit in?
DON- High school was ok. I left high school after grade 9 to work and raise my young family.
CAROL- High school was ok. I graduated when I was 17. I dreaded the start of the school year every year. I realize now that I severely suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
JR- What did you aspire to be when you were younger?
DON- As a child, I wanted to be a pilot and build aircraft.
CAROL- When I was young I wanted to be a cop, like my uncle. As a teenager I wanted to work in radio as a disc-jockey or a sportscaster. I didn’t have a lot of support and didn’t know how to pursue these jobs.
JR- What would you say are your best attributes (don’t be modest)?
DON- I love the planet and people. I work hard every day and I love to learn new things.
CAROL- I have a good moral compass. I have integrity and empathy. I have the courage to face my fears.
JR- What are some of you adult accomplishments?
DON- I have 5 children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Learning about running businesses with ethics and professionalism.
CAROL- I went to college and received a diploma in Developmental Services.
JR- Tell me about your arrests with Cannabis.
DON- I was arrested in March 12, 1999 for Cannabis cultivation, my son’s fifth birthday, that was quite the day. We had produced about two tons of weed we had 700 1000 watt high pressure sodiums going, and we created a lot of jobs there. We were not organized crime, but we were organized, just not organized “crime”. We were just families and people. We had kids, we had families. When we were arrested we were treated like murderers and rapists, and we knew we were harmless Cannabis people just makin a living. Back then, the economy was so bad that carpenters, plumbers, electricians, couldn’t really get any decent paying jobs to raise their families so the only thing we really had was Cannabis. It wasn’t the only thing but Cannabis is what was keeping the BC economy going. There were more people involved in the Cannabis industry than the lumber industry. And a lot of us worked there.
CAROL- It took two years for Don to go through trial so he went to jail and was sentenced to four years in 2001. While he was awaiting trial, he ran as a candidate for the BC Marijuana Party and came in five out of seven, for a single issue party, Marijuana Legalization. Fifty-three thousand people voted. I think he let the people know and it made a statement. Don got out of jail in early 2003, and was on day parole and that’s when we met. A little over a year later, we opened up our store “Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop” it was called, and everyone called it Da Kine Cafe, but we never served coffee (laughs out loud). Anyways, we were raided. Don was on day parole by this time, full parole and our store lasted just over four months into it. So when we were raided, that was my first raid ever, first arrest ever and my first time ever being handcuffed by a police officer. I spent the night in jail. There were eight people raided at our shop at one time. Don was there but they missed him by seconds. Don was able to walk away from the raid without detection and so that was nice. Although they did pick him up three days later and then held him in maximum security for the next nine and a half months, which was really super fucking hard. He was on parole so he was breaching his parole, not only reoffending, but also breaching, so they just locked him up in maximum security. I was in jail overnight from the raid and then we were all released in 24 hours later. We wanted to keep our store open so we opened it up the very next day. And then Don got picked up a couple days later so I kept it opened even though I had a no contact order to go to the store at this point. Then a week after I was arrested they followed me around all day long and we needed pot for the store and here I was (snaps fingers) delivering pot. Well I was about to deliver pot. But they picked me up in my car and then I spent the next thirty three days in jail and after that they put me in the city cells in Vancouver and I was there for six days, and then they put in the Surrey pretrial jail which is a maximum security remand center and then I got out on my birthday. Then it took a couple years to go to trial an. I had three trials booked because I got one for the breach, the raid and then one for the second offense that I was also breaching. So there were three trials waiting for me. They made me have the second trial before the first trial so I was tried on just the fact that I had pot in my car. I was convicted of that and I plead guilty to the Da Kine because they were going to sentence me in jail and I’d get out of jail and then I would have to be retried again on the Da Kine so I plead guilty to avoid years and years of court. I was going to jail anyways, so I was sentenced to 17 months in jail, eight and a half months on parole. Which was worse for me than being in jail, because my parole officer was a cow. Don had a really bad parole officer too, one good one, but one bad one too.
During this audio recorded part of the conversation, Don adds that the system he experienced from the inside looking out was (is) corrupt, hypocritical and disgusting, He mentions how one parole officer was using the system to harass him on random visits so that he could claim “mileage” for work, and how an intake worker mentions that his “buddy” has a great big grow op in his basement. Don shares how he looked at him and said, “Really? And I am getting arrested for this? And you’re bragging to me about how your buddy has a grow op while I’m going to prison for this shit?”
DON- Now that weeds going legal all these people that used to attack us and jail us and all these court people, now they all want to get involved they want to push us out of the way and take the industry from us. We have thousands of years of experience combined in business and we have thousands of as a group standing for our rights and these guys wanna push us aside. It’s not going to happen.
CAROL- So when I went to jail, Don visited me jail every Saturday and then I got out. And then about ten months later, he went on trial. And then he was sentenced to two and a half years in jail. Which was another brutal experience. He spent quite a few months in maximum security.
DON- When they caught me on the breach I spent nine months the rest of my sentence of a four year sentence in maximum. And when I got out, I had to go on bail otherwise I would stay in jail, or on trial or in jail for ten years. And then when we were out on bail, we both ran as candidates for legislative changes in 2005.
JR- What are your political stand points and involvement with political parties?
CAROL- They are all corrupt. Well most of them are for sure. In the past I have written to politicians and MP’s and what not, when Don was in jail. I never got satisfaction with what they had to say. They wanted to continue to treat at as criminals. Prohibition is a great idea they thought, well at least ten years ago.
DON- We support Dana Larsen and his campaign with Sensible BC He is a great spokesperson politically and represents us. But if I had something to say to anybody like Trudeau and down, like the head of the RCMP and all that, I would look at them and say “You people are corrupt. You told us that your father had the power and the money to get your brother off. Yet you continue to criminalize us and all you have to do is sign one piece of paper.” So anyways, all these people that are enforcing these criminal laws against us that is criminal misuse of public resources and negligence. We have 1.2 million starving children in Canada that are hungry every single day That is negligence as well. This is so disgusting that we should take all these “leaders”, not the soldiers, but the leaders, and they should all be charged with all sorts of corruption and take their assets should be taken away through proceeds of crime. And it’s really simple and really easy to do.
JR- Where do see the future of WEEDS®?
CAROL & DON- To be a viable company going through legalization and to be a part of it all at the end of it all, whatever the end is.
While provinces scramble to identify what regulating tools will be required to allow legal weed in their municipalities for 2018, other provinces have announced their unjust intentions and have beefed up police budgets. One would think that legalizing Cannabis would likely lower crime, when in fact their over-reacting fear of “letting us be” coincides with the representation of unlawful policing and unnecessary arrests. The dismemberment of a thriving Craft Cannabis community has begun and has created heavy hearted dialogue among those who hold it dear. The tides of these circumstances embellish the souls of empathetic Canadians and leave Cannabis advocates feeling abused and defeated. Yet in their determination to overcome these tides, new opportunities do arise and new challenges are met with bravery, wisdom and truth. When WEEDS® stand their ground, Canadians will continue to flourish.