injusticebusters logo

Mike Spindloe

Challenges law against selling drug paraphernalia

Mike Spindloe

April, 2000: Mike Spindloe, proprietor of Saskatoon's Vinyl Exchange, and his lawyer, Alan Young appeared before the Saskatchewan Appeal Court and are now awaiting the decision on whether or not his conviction will stand.

This Court hardly ever reverses anything, but he needs just one dissenting judge to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Good luck, Mike!

May, 2000: Mike lost his appeal and the cops got to keep all his stuff. So now there is one more law that the cops can use to selectively prosecute those who don't toe the line.

As the casualties pile up in the war against marijuana, the local media makes potty jokes which are more offensive than toilet talk. Although the StarPhoenix has carried a sensible editorial position on the decriminalization of marijuana, they have failed to point out or investigate the degree to which the drug laws are used for selective prosecution and outrageous violations of charter rights.

Test case important to headshops and hempshops all over Canada

June 11, 1999: Mike Spindloe's appeal against conviction and $1000 fine for selling drug paraphernalia at the Vinyl Exchange in Saskatoon was heard before Queen's Bench Judge McCullen today. Decision was reserved.

Alan Young, who has taken several important drug test cases, presented Spindloe's constitutional arguements. Graham Mitchell defended the Crown's position, and even asked that Provincial Court Judge Sheila Whelan's directive to return Spindloe's property to him be reversed. If Mitchell's arguements hold, police powers to steal people's property while gathering evidence will be greatly expanded. They do it now, as anyone who has been the subject of a warrantless search can attest. Victims of such thievery can now get a court order to have non-evidentiary material returned to them (although getting such an order enforced is virtually impossible.)

This test case is important to headshop owners all over Canada. (Mike Spindloe told me he thinks there are about 150.) It is also important to merchants who sell rolling papers, alligator clips or plumbing supplies.

Spindloe's decision to test the law (paraphernalia is not specifically defined or even mentioned in the Drug and Substance Act as it now stands) was based in part on the need for clarity. As the law now stands, police can and do pick and choose what they define as drug paraphernalia based on their own discretion.

Usually police discretionary powers are restricted to making interpretation from legislation. But with drug paraphernalia, the police have simply decided that it is contraband and this has been backed up by prosecutors. Young argued that this is similar to police seizing knives from a kitchen supply shop because knives are sometimes used to kill people.

The future of many search, seizure and forfeiture issues will be determined by the outcome of this case.

Spindloe appeals drug paraphernalia ruling

Mike Spindloe says he is putting principle before financial considerations as he continues his attempt to strike down Canada's law banning the sale of drug paraphernalia.

Spindloe, convicted this fall of selling drug gear, has filed his notice of appeal in Court of Queen's Bench. The appeal won't be heard until the spring or summer.

Spindloe contends the drug paraphernalia law is unconstitutional because it's too vague.

"I'm appealing because I've got nothing to lose by doing so," Spindloe said. "But the law is vague and overreaching. I find it most unfortunate we can't appeal on the grounds the law is stupid, because I think it is."

In upholding the law during Spindloe's provincial court trial, Judge Sheila Whelan said it was designed to crack down on "enterprises which glamourize illicit drug use."

In his appeal Spindloe says a search of his store, The Vinyl Exchange, and the seizure of his property was unconstitutional.

Spindloe is also appealing the $1,000 fine Whelan imposed on him, saying the penalty is too harsh. Spindloe asked for an absolute discharge, which would have left him without a criminal record.

Spindloe had to cough up $1,770 for a transcript of his provincial court trial. He said he hopes to raise more money in the community and among his fellow business owners.

"I dug deep into my bank account and paid the fee," Spindloe said. "If every person who smoked pot in Saskatoon gave me one dollar, I'd have no problem getting together the money I need."

Spindloe said he still has only heard from one person who is against his fight.

"It's amazing, after all this time and publicity only one person has said anything remotely negative," he said. "It demonstrates that the whole system is completely out of touch with reality."

Store busted for dope magazines

Saskatoon bookstore operators are outraged by a police raid on a downtown store that resulted in criminal charges against the owner and the seizure of a number of cannabis-related books and magazines.

On May 15, police raided the Vinyl Exchange on 128 Second Avenue Borth and seized owner Mike Spindloe's inventory of Cannabis Canada, High Times and Hemp Times magazines, plus an array of pipes and smoking paraphernalia.

Spindloe is facing charges of selling literature that promotes illicut drug use. He appears in provincial court June 25.

The magazines are avialavle in at least 15 other Saskatoon bookstores, says Midwest News Agencies sales manager Glen Roney, the local wholesaler.

"These are all mainstream magazines, between 15 and 20 stores carry some or all of the titles. In the case of High Times (an American Magazine), it comes through Canada Customs and is distributed nationally," he said. "These Magazines are not drug paraphernalia."

City Police Sgt. Dave Kovach said the raid and charges stemmed from an investigation by an officer, not a complaint. Kovach issued a word of caution to other bookstore owners. "The Criminal Code is very clear. If we see this literature in other stores, they could be charged as well," he said. "Anyone that has this literature can face the same consequences . . .search, seizure, and charges."

Robert Green at Broadway Book Marchants, which sells Cannabis Canada, says he's concerned with the police action "beacuse it censorious, and that's always a concern for someone in the information business. This is certainly disturbing."

Ernie Meili at Saskatoon Bookstore says the police targeting one store "is not fair," and he suggests the department may not be up on its law. "They absolutely do not have the right," he said. Assed Darwin Megyesi at the Readers Nook: "I don't agree with the seizure, but I won't worry about it until someone tries to tell me what I can't sell in my store."

As for Spindloe, he says the experience had been like "waking up in a bad dream that doesn't stop. It's been like a break-in."

Spindloe knew something was up when a plainclothes officer he knew came into the store and purchased a copy of Cannabis Canada. He exited the store "and waved his arm. Car doors opened up all over the street and seven plainclothes officers came into the store with a search warrant and started loading material into boxes." He estimated police seized $4000 worth of merchandise.

Spindloe has since started a petition aimed at getting the charges dropped and the merchandise returned. He is also accepting donations for a defence fund.

Pot protesters' noses out of joint

Group says posters for rally unfairly targeted

A local pot legalization activist says his human rights were violated when The Partnership tore down posters he placed around Saskatoon advertising a May 5 marijuana rally.

Timothy Hampton says he was told by employees of the downtown business improvement group that his posters were too large and didn't comply with the postering bylaw.

Bylaw 7565 states that posters displayed on community poster boards cannot be larger than 11 by 17 inches.

"My survey around the city shows the only posters that are complying with the by-law at this point are ours. We had posters torn down that were absolutely legal," Hampton said.

"And if our posters are non-complying, and everyone else's posters are non-complying, why are our posters singled out to be removed?"

Terry Scaddan, executive director of The Partnership, said he did ask that Hampton's posters be taken down on April 27.

"But all it had to do with is oversize posters, period. It had nothing to do with the content," he said, adding Hampton's posters were four times the size the bylaw allows.

"We certainly back freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Scaddan added.

About 200 Saskatoon protesters attended the marijuana rally held Saturday afternoon. The event, co-organized by the Saskatchewan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and by the Marijuana Party of Saskatchewan, was dedicated to ending prohibition.

"Six million people in Canada smoked a joint in the last six months. The fact that cannabis is illegal is absolutely ridiculous," said Hampton, a NORML member who's been fighting for the legalization of pot for 25 years.

"We waste all these resources within the judicial system towards criminalizing one-fifth of our population. If we don't speak up, they're not going to change the law."

Protesters carried signs depicting peace symbols and marijuana plants as they marched from the top of the Broadway Bridge to the Vimy Memorial, where they congregated for speakers and music.

Hampton said the march was dedicated to Ernest Rogalsky, the 48-year-old founder of the Saskatchewan chapter of NORML, who's currently in prison for trafficking marijuana.

"This is an honest, upright man who's never written a bad cheque in his life and never had a drunk driving charge. He lives in the same community he grew up in, and he's in jail for marijuana.

"This is crazy. We're here for legalization, not victimization," Hampton said.

The Saskatoon marijuana march, entitled "2001: The Space Odyssey," was one of 14 legalization protests held in cities across Canada on Saturday.

Michael Spindloe, a Saskatoon businessperson, said he hoped the rally helps the legalization movement.

Spindloe was charged in 1997 with selling drug paraphernalia after four police officers raided his store, The Vinyl Exchange, where he sells compact discs, records, cassettes and "smoking accessories."

"I think it's always good to raise awareness and I think anything that brings the issue before the public is good at this point," he said.

"There was never any reason for marijuana to be illegal in the first place. Continued prohibition is a human rights violation."

Last week, Saskatchewan's highest court upheld the law that makes it illegal to sell drug paraphernalia, but Spindloe told protesters that "for the moment, it's business as usual."

"I will say, though, it's not much fun going to work everyday and wondering if you're going to get busted."

City police reported no problems from the protest.