David Hill is not giving up. He says he intends to re-establish his cannabis display outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, where he had been growing and handing out live marijuana plants for two weeks until police put an end to the protest on Thursday.
Officers gave Mr. Hill a bylaw infraction ticket and confiscated his tents and other property. A Vancouver police spokesperson said he had become less co-operative as the protest continued. One person was detained, police said, because he tried to obstruct city workers who were clearing away the tent and other items that have been a routine sight for passersby in the key downtown area.
For the previous 14 days, police had taken a laid-back approach to Mr. Hill that was at odds with the approach in Toronto, where, a week ago, police and bylaw officers raided 43 illegal marijuana dispensaries.
In Vancouver, police had initially given Mr. Hill and about half a dozen supporters space for their activism as they slept on the steps of the gallery – which at one time was a provincial courthouse – smoked joints and handed out marijuana plants.
Mr. Hill said he plans to return to the same spot on the south end of the gallery to carry on his campaign to fully legalize marijuana – one that saw him give away 200 plants over the course of his protest. The generous sunshine was good for the plants, he said. "It even warms up the concrete."
He said he's ready to go another round with the police if necessary.
"I'm 41 years old. I've never been a bad person. I've never been a criminal," Mr. Hill said in an interview, standing near the neatly arranged pot plants he managed to set aside as the police arrived.
"If the cops are going to come and take my crippled old ass down and slam me on the ground because I want to help people, then I am going to let the city decide. I am going to let the country decide if I am a criminal or if I am really trying to help people."
In a statement issued on Thursday, Vancouver police, without naming Mr. Hill, said the "individual" who set up the protest was initially "co-operative and reasonable" in speaking to officers, who visited the site early on.
"Over the days, however, his single tent grew to two and then three. Police recently began receiving noise complaints about loud music being played late at night," said the statement. "Police also received information he was giving away not only the plants, but marijuana products as part of the protest."
The police department said it stepped in because Mr. Hill was no longer willing to work with officers in a way that would allow his activism to continue. "With ongoing complaints, growing safety concerns and the now lack of co-operation on behalf of the organizer, a decision was made to ask him to end the protest. He refused and stated he would not remove his structures."
On Thursday, police issued Mr. Hill a bylaw ticket, and city workers gathered four truckloads of items off the site to be stored for him to recover at his convenience.
Mr. Hill disputed the suggestion that he was unco-operative. He did say he was sharing joints with anyone who asked to do so,
The Vancouver native, who was raised in Toronto, said he has been smoking marijuana since he was 12 and began growing it at 14. He returned to British Columbia – saying "it really did seem like the land of the weed" – in the late 1990s because he figured Vancouver was a better place to push for marijuana legalization. At one point, his own father smoked pot on the steps where he had his camp.
More recently, Mr. Hill said, edibles have helped him with pain associated with osteoporosis, diagnosed about a year ago, that had him wincing on Thursday as he moved about. He works as a roofing foreman when he's able.
Mr. Hill said he had been well received by the public. "Little old ladies who were mad at their kids for smoking weed [were] asking if they could have a plant to say sorry to their kids for thinking it was bad."