England, land of Dope and Stories.
By: Sinsemilla Guerrilla
Friday, January 25, 2002.
My flight from Amsterdam had just taken off, said the text-tv, as I arrived on Schiphol, wich made me invent some new curses, and it turned out it was my own doing. I looked at my departure time the night before, Maecel had booked me a flight, so I did not know yet. I saw 7.40, so I assumed it was my departure time, it turned out to be the arrival time, confusing, to go back in time 1 hour, from Amsterdam to Manchester, the flight lasts 1.10 hrs itsself.
I cursed because of my own stupidity, and because I thought I could not make it to Manchester Airport in time, I had to be there around noon.
BA brought the outcome, I could still book on the 10.20 flight, wich I did, I got rid of my luggage and walked in to the check-up area, to have my belongings scanned for dangerous items. I decided to go straight through customs, I have been stopped for an old smuggle-adventure in France on several occassions, so I confronted the officer on duty with my passport.
He typed my number in, and said I could pass. I was surprised, my name always pops up when typed in, telling the viewer I am wanted for extradition for France, followed by calling in a collegue, who then takes me to an office, to check all this. This has happened 7 times so far, up and down to Manchester, it is always embarassing to be picked out, in front of hundreds of travelers. I always get upset, especially when it takes them 20 minutes to find the data on me, before they let me continue to the planes.
I asked the officer if he was sure, that would mean they finally took my name out of the system, after 12 years, I wanted him to confirm that. “ Do you want me to try again?”, asked the young man, and started typing again, without awaiting my reply. “Oh, something does come up”, said the officer, wich made me predict it would be for extradition to France, and that their department still do not know where I live…
“That’s right”, said the blushing official, “I’m sorry, but I have to call in a collegue to check this.”. He pressed the button, wich makes another officer step out a door, to walk up to the requesting desk. I was already on my way to the office, this was the fifth catch on departure, so I knew where to go.
The last few times it went fast, after a few minutes it popped up, and then I could leave again, on my way to the Dutch Experience in Stockport, UK.
The call-in officer was a fanatic, he found my file immidiately, making me think I could go. He said he would call the CRI, the national Detective Squad, to get the history erased.
I told him that had been tried before, resulting in me waiting for 40-50 minutes, so I told him he’d better not try that, it would not work. He called anyway, assuring me it would be done in minutes.
My blood started boiling after 15 minutes, I was held against my will, not guilty of any crime, victimised by a stupid computer with an old file in it, and persistent officers, pulling me in for it.
They were probably some of the same officers that were nationally slammed in the media the week before, followed by a panic reaction of our Justice Department.
The reason for the latest major upset in tolerant Holland was the release of over a dozen traffickers, ball-swallowers, as they call them, because of the method they use to smuggle the goods. They swallow plastic-covered balls of cocaine, as much as they can, and then jump on a plane to Holland, mainly from Surinam and the Antilles Islands in the Carribean.
Their contrabande was confiscated, and they were let off with a summence to appear in court later, allowing them to fly back to where they came from…
Most of them had under a kilo, stated the custom-spokesman, but the newspapers reported different, the next day, one of the released traffickers was carrying 14 kilo’s of cocaine with her, in a suitcase. She returned home, with a note of the officers, to convince to the ones that sent her over, they might not believe her….
I asked the officer for my passport, but he said he had to wait for the phonecall from the CRI. That made me ask me I had to stay, he confirmed that, explaining he wanted to get it out of the system, so this would not occur again. I knew he could not do that from here, nor over the phone, so I protested against that, and asked for my passport again. He repeated that I had to wait until he was called by the CRI, and turned his back on me.
I repeated I wanted my passport back, and that I had enough of their failing system, and my enforced stay in their office. I started shouting at the 5 officers present in the office, could not stop myself. I asked them what they were all doing, drinking coffee and staring at me and my passport, while ball-swallowers could pass in and out.
I told them I wanted my passport, or I would go smashing the computers, so they could arrest me for that, and lock me up, wich I could accept, being guilty of vandalism. The phone rang as I stood up, the officer picked it up, and held his hand up to me, my passport in it. He told is was the CRI, so I waited until he told me they could not get it out, not from Schiphol, not by phone. I grabbed my passport, and thanked them very much for the delay. They let me walk out, but ‘my’ officer followed me out, asking me why I behaved so nasty towards him. I started a discussion with him, wich lasted 15 minutes, before he asked me why I was reasonable and took my time for this. I pointed to the gates, and told him I could go that way, or back home, or to the restaurant, now, or in an hour, because I was no longer held against my will, with my passport. I also told him I would cause a major problem on returning, in case I got pulled again, and walked of towards the shop, I had two hours to kill before the plane left, my time. The flight was fine, the scrambled eggs-breakfast tasted good, as usual.
Visiting Colin in Strangeways, beware of the dogs !
Baron and Andrea, who run the Growzone Hydroponics shop in Todmorden, picked me up from Manchester Airport, to take me to the Dutch Experience, for a cup of tea and other herbal delights. The visit was at two o’clock, Baron made sure we left in time, the Manchester traffic is humungous.
We made it in time, I enregistered in the visitors center of Strangeways, together with other friends and relatives of some of the 1000 inmates of Strangeways prison.
I sprayed myself with odor-neutralisor, to prevent the snifferdogs from ratting at me, I live in coffeeshops, so I will always smell after cannabis. I had to take this measurement because two of Colin’s visitors were already picked out by the dog, just smelling like cannabis, from smoking a joint on the way to him. After such a discovery, the smelling person can only see Colin behind glass, a so-called closed visit. A third stinker would be fatal, then all the following visits to Colin will be closed, I promised to refuse a visit, on discovery by the dog, to not get the 3rd closed visit.
After the grim welcome in Strangeways, (shoes and belongings scanned, stamped with a number, frisked on a platform, a look at my dental work and a dog who put his nose in my crutch!) I was lead to the visiting area, a gymsize hall, with a lot of wardens and inmates.
Colin saw me from far, and waved like a madman, a smile from ear to ear, I waved back, noticing he lost some weight at first sight. We were allowed to hug, I think, nobody said anything about it, the long lost contact was back.
We sat down, and started talking at the same time, I was allowed first, so I started explaining him all the things he did not know yet, to clear out the old and present situation in and around the Dutch Experience, his main concern. After answering all his questions about that, and more, we smiled at each other, and were ever so happy the place was still open, against all odds, and thanks to a small group of fanatic DE-fenders!
Colin’s eyes still have the fire they had when we started this project, I could see him straighten his back again, his broken back, that is, as he told me he could do the full stretch, if that is what it takes, as long as the caf’ stays open. I assured him it would take more than a Jackson and some magistrates to close the DE, in full awareness of the growing group of diehards and members of the DE and the MMCO.
I continued with informing Colin about the scheduled C!day actions, and about the support from Holland and France, people that would come over to be arrested for the cause, and for the DE, it made Colin’s face glow in delight. We did not get any further than that, we laughed a lot, about all the mistakes of the GMP and the Court in the follow up of the previous protests, and about his upcoming trial. He told me he decided to be represented by Henry and Co. solicitors, Chris Hinnett, his legal rep, moved to that firm after an argument over Colin’s defense with his former boss, Lesley Herman. I told Colin I would do the same, and that I would inform other arrested protesters about his choice.
We were separated before we could both empty our databanks, but Colin was still all smile as I had to leave, fully confident in the people that keep the DE alive and smoking, and with good hope of his release, after his new request for bail at Crown Court, with new evidence.
He did it again, as always, he pulled up his red Strangeways tank-top, to show his worn out Dutch Experience t-shirt, pointing at the logo, exclaiming:
“The Dutch Experience is here to stay!”, with a Jack Nicholson grin. It caused a laughter in the depressed hall, the inmates all cheered ‘our’ Colin! I walked off, with a thickening throat, and waved at him on leaving the hall, determined to keep our dream alive, and Colin in full faith of us.
I reported about our meeting later, in the Dutch Experience, wich was a relief for all the staff and supporters, they knew Colin had been worried for a long time, I could assure them his worries were over, and that he was as strong as ever. We shared a good smoke over this thought, and vowed to keep the pressure on the GMP and the Department of Injustice.
Three more days to C!day.
Saturday, January 26, 2002.
I spent all day in the Dutch Experience, mainly just talking to all supporters about their personal experiences with the law, I picked up a lot of information this way, as always, I am still an amateur in British Law. The atmosphere was wonderfull, and the place was buzzing with energy, the will to be arrested was there, finally…
We had a lot of calls in, from some press and most of the charged supporters, who were all informing about the proceedings and the actions on C!Day.
One of the ‘cannacrooks’ offered to bring 40 baggies with a small quantity of cannabis, to hand in to the police to be arrested, an offer I could not refuse.
I was also called to the phone to talk to Lawrence, one of Colin’s patients, whom I visited a few times before, the last time with Baron, who takes care of his medication from that day. He asked if I could come and see him, in the Total Care Home, wich made me ask him if Baron was not taking care of him. “No, that is not the reason I call, Baron is great, I have a joint ready to light after this call already. I just want to see you and have a smoke together.”
He promised him to come over the next day, after he gave me a ‘bell’ again, to make sure he was not in the tub, like last time, the stay in the waiting room was very depressing, in the midst of severely disabled people. He agreed on that, and promised to let me know when to come.
One of the last calls of the day was from Richard Cowan, the reporter of Pot-tv, the worldwide internet broadcast on the Cannabis Culture site, amongst others.
He just arrived at Manchester Airport, in order to report on C!day and the preparations on this event in his program, and asked for directions to the Dutch Experience, to instruct the taxidriver about the location.
He was recognised by some people as he walked in, I think his hairdue gave him away, Richard has no hair at all, a lot off DE fans seem to follow his reports on the follow up of the events around Colin Davies and the DE. He was immediately involved in the conversation, and supplied with a nice bud by a local diehard, to get himself in the right mood, Richard accepted the bud and the suggestion.
I stayed in another hotel this time, they also know I am involved in the caf, as they call it, but they do not seem to mind me smoking in the rooms, they are in support of Colin’s cause too. I rolled up a nice ‘Nightnurse’ joint, sprayed some after-shave on the door, and smoked up in peace, my mind expanded by both the buzz and all the new input, that day.
Two more days to C!day.
Sunday, January 27, 2002.
I left the hotel early, it was a stiff walk to the Dutch Experience, wich would only open two hours later, but I thought a good walk around Stockport could not hurt, I was here to stay around as well, so some topographic knowledge could not hurt. I noticed a lot of C!day flyers, all around town, laminated and attached to lampposts and trees with tie-wraps, Colin’s picture in the left upper corner, I smiled at his face on every flyer I saw.
The Dutch Experience filled up as it opened, all local protesters gathered to inspire themselves for the big day, with slogans and big joints, wich made me feel at home for the first time, fear and paranoia had left the building, and the minds of the people, great atmosphere !
In the middle of enjoying a fine joint, I had a phonecall from Ottavio Marzocchi, a member of the Radical Party in Italy, who came with Marco Capatto when he was arrested in Stockport, on December 20, 2001. He told me that one of the leading figures, a long time cannabis-activist, MEP Marco Pannella, intended to have himself arrested in Stockport too, on Monday, 28 January, a day before C!day. His reason for this arrest was to end up in court the next day, he would refuse bail, like Capatto, thusway creating more attention for C!day, to get more press.
I was delighted, I had read and heard a lot about Mr. Pannella, and I was sure this would help us to get attention, this man was known for voluntary arrests with cannabis for decades. Ottavio said he would see me the next day, with both Marco’s.
Lawrence called around 4 in the afternoon, so I called a taxi to go and see him, Dibbz asked if he could come, he spoke to him on the phone only, and really wanted to see him now. I thought that Lawrence would like that, he does not get much visit, so Dibbz went along to Total Care.
We greeted Lawrence, who was happy to see us, and sat down to roll us a joint, to get in the mood for some smalltalk and joking with our host. Lawrence said he had to make another concession, he had to open a window, and spray with odor-neutralisor after a joint, the smell was bothering the other patients in the home. I told Lawrence that the UK weed was getting stronger in high and smell, nothing that can be done about that, so the concession was to be considered reasonable.
I invited Lawrence to come over to Stockport on C!day, to be arrested with us, for Colin and the cause. He accepted the offer right away, and asked by what time he had to be there. We made arrangements about his transport and arrival, he needs a van with a lift, and smoked up another joint, Lawrence ordered us a cup of tea. We left after an hour, leaving Lawrence lightly sedated after some Lebanon and KC33 weed.
Dibbz was impressed, he only regained his speech when we came outside. He told me that he now realised what medical marihuana meant, and what it means to people who rely on it. He also promised he would go and see Lawrence with more people from the DE, to share this knowledge with him.
Chris Davies, the MEP from Oldham, called me later that day, to confirm the visit of the Italian delegation. He asked me what we were doing to get press, I told him the DE was offline, so it would be difficult to get one out, Stockport in not blessed with a lot of online-places. Chris offered me to use his office in Stockport the next day, as a presscenter, the Italians would come in there too. Of course I accepted, a nice gesture and the best way to get things done.
The spirits were high in the Dutch Experience that night, we were charging up for the day. One more day, and then: C!day !
Monday, January 28, 2002.
It was an early start, I had breakfast with Dick Cowan, before we headed for the office of the local Liberal-Democrats, to make up and send the last pressrelease about C!day, and the arrival and announced arrest of Marco Pannella. The Radical Party had already spread the word in two previous pressreleases from Brussels.
It was a strange awareness for me, to be invited to the office of a politician, not to complain or protest, but to use the facilities as a press-center, but I realised we were moving ahead in society, the cannabis movement in the UK started gaining international political support !
We were allowed to use Chris Davies’ room, but we were not allowed to smoke, Chris is anti tobacco, but, fortunately, pro cannabis.
After we sent the pressrelease out, we walked back to the Dutch Experience, a hilly experience, walking up and down in Stockport, my calves must have grown an inch in the few days I spent there.
The Dutch Experience was well filled, as Dick and me stepped in, people jumped up to shake and hug, knowing me only from online pics, and through the message
board of Hempcity, a wonderfull experience.
I informed the diehard staff of the DE about the ongoing situation, to make sure we had enough supporters to guide Marco Pannella to the Stockport Police station, that afternoon, and to make sure the banner was ready. The banner, stating : “Thank you, MR. Pannella, for YOUR support for OUR cause!”, was hanging out to dry, the group of wild weedprotesters started to become a force, ready to act at any moment, we only heard of Pannella’s arrival the evening before.
All kinds of preparations were taken, we stuffed our pockets with the strangest items, the officer that arrests a person, has to make a list of the arrestee’s belongings, I even pocketed a Fred Flintstone Christmas decoration, amongst 30 other useless items.
The Activists were getting in the mood, people started pooring in from all over the country, to face the Stockport Magistrates the next day, all determined to be arrested after that confrontation.
Marcel, WWW’s manager, called in with bad news, they had booked passage on a ferry, but the boats could not sail out because of the storm, so he was not sure if he and seven other Dutch WWW staffmembers, were able to make it to Stockport. It made me pissed, I never thought the climate would turn against us, but it did, I told Marcel to try to get tickets at Easyjet, to be able to make it the same day.
That worked, also on my cashflow, but at least they could be there to try and break the law with the UK potpowers and me, all ready to be arrested, and all instructed to ask for an interprator, eventhough we all speak English. That would keep the police occupied for a while, so the attempt to block the system would be more effective.
Andrew, a member of Chris Davies’ staff, called to let me know that Marco Pannella and his company would arrive around 3 o’clock, and if I would be able to attend, with Richard Cowan, in order to discuss the tactics to be used. I promised we would be there, I felt some excitement, about meeting a person I always wanted to meet, a cannabiswarrior, Marco Pannella, the man that denied bail and spent 6 months in prison for cannabisoffenses.
We arrived just before the Italian company, Chris Davies welcomed us in, we were supplied with coffee, and asked not to smoke, the ‘boss’ was against it, you know…
The office really came alive on the arrival of the Italians, Marco Capatto, Marco Pannella and Ottavio Marzocchi came in with wide open arms, to hug Chris Davies and his staff, it seemed they all knew eachother from previous occasions. We were properly introduced by Chris, and gathered around a king-size table to talk action. Marco Pannella speaks Italian and French, so the younger Marco translated, giving the meet a more international touch than it already had.
I informed Mr. Pannella about the rumours that the policechief was fed up with the situation, and instructed his officers to summence people, and let them go after the procedure of interviewing, fingerprints, picture and DNA-extraction. Since Mr. Pannella was the first to be arrested after we heard this rumour, he might well be the first one to be treated that way, so a night in the cell might no longer be ‘obtainable’.
He was happy about that, he said that would be another small step forward, and he was honoured to be the one to test and undergo that presumed treatment.
Shortly after that, we were on our way to the Dutch Experience, where we would be joined by the regulars, to walk over to the Stockport police station.
We stopped in front of the policestation, where the BBC and the Italian tv, RAI, were already waiting for things to come. There was no sign of the police, eventhough they must have known Mr.Pannella and our troops were coming, the GMP vowed to arrest him, said an Ananova article earlier, like the two previous MEP’s.
Marco Pannella started to state his motivations for his action to the press, we all listened, and watched the windows above the entrance of the Stockport Copshop, no sign of police, not even one curious cop. After Mr. Pannella finished his statements, we started chanting, to get some attention from the police, but even that did not cause the cops to come out. Marco Pannella walked over to the entrance of the station, rang the bell, and held up his baggies of hash and weed in front of the transparant door. He turned around to us, his armed raised in despare, he was not being let in.
He tried again, some of the DE-fenders came up to help him, wich resulted in the police opening the door to the reception, Marco Pannella walked in with Capatto, followed by everyone carrying a camera, and offered himself for arrest. After all cameras were removed from the hall, Mr.Pannella again tried to get himself arrested, for possessing cannnabis, the police did not seem very happy with it. The Police offered Mr. Pannella a caution, wich he refused, he wanted to be arrested and locked up. The officer said that was not in the public interest, confiscated the evidence, and sent both Marco’s out of the station…
We were amazed, but started applauding and cheering, when we saw both Italians walk out, their hands raised in the air, both of them laughing and shaking their head in disbelief. The press was still there, and rushed to the aged Italian politician to get the latest, like all of us wanted to hear what went on inside.
His explanation, translated by Marco Capatto, made us feel we won, but would this non-arrest mode be on to last?
MarcoPannella and his company went back to Chris Davies’ office, all protesters went back to the DE, to inform the staff and the visitors about this unbelievable act of incompetence by the Stockport Police.
More people came in that night, to see the Magistrate on C!day, they were all informed about, and inspired by the happening of that afternoon, the will to try to be arrested was in the air, or in the smoke that we all caused, in good company. The place became hyper when the Dutch delegation came in, Marcel, Maruska and six of our staff and regulars came barging in, causing everybody to gather in the front room. They brought some goodies, that were opened and set to fire at the spot, the atmosphere was enhanced with the smells of Skunk and Nepalese hash, the place was packed until the last puff.
We decided to make it an early night, the DE had to be open at 8.30, to make sure we could all have a coffee or a brew, before leaving to Court.
C!day, Tomorrow !!
Tuesday, January 29, 2002. C!day !
The morning session.
I woke up early, too early, Maruska had set the alarm, her phone was still on Dutch time, an hour earlier than the UK, I decided to stay up, and prepare myself for the day that lay ahead, I was one of the 24 people who were to appear in court, so I rolled a big fat joint to get my brain numb, you do not have to be sharp to face the Magistrate.
We left the hotel together, nine Dutch coffeeshoppers, and an American reporter, the last one was not out to be arrested, just to get the news out.
We arrived in the DE in time to have a joint and a coffee before we went to Edward Street, and we were not the only ones, the place was packed with offenders and DE-fenders, ready to have another go to the Clown Court, to get a date to appear in Crown Court in Manchester.
The only party missing was the Patman-Jimmy group, but they were on their way, as I heard from Chris Baldwin, all other cannacrooks were crammed in the DE, with a lot of supporters.
The five-minute walk to Court was used to smoke the joints we rolled earlier, we had to adjust our speed to the people on crutches and wheelchairs in the group, also arrested in the proces. Winston was smoking his bong, openly, exclaiming the police could kiss the bodypart he sits on, normally.
An other group of supporters was already gathered in front of the courthouse, as was the press, waiting for things to happen, and they did.
Winston was approached and later arrested by a female officer, so we knew already then that arrests were still being made, as long as they were not an Italian MEP, British protesters were still major targets.
I did not notice that, being inside the courthouse to be enregistered and send to the Usher, after wich I stayed inside to await the procedures. After a while all those charged were present, Jimmy and Patman arrived last, but in time to get in the courtroom.
The two charged MEP’s were first, both were committed to appear in Crown Court on March 15, charged with plain possession of cannabis. After they were committed, and let out of the defendant-box, we all applauded and cheered the two Politicians with balls, wich made the Magistrates leave the courtroom, and caused the arrival of ten extra policeofficers, in the lobby to the courtroom.
We were told to refrain from this in the following cases, unless we wanted to be sent out of the courtroom, so we all sat still and watched the next group of defendants being led in to the box, 5 in total. Before they could be committed, we were being held up by my former solicitor, Lesley Herman, who was protesting against the fact that most of ’her’ clients had moved to another firm, with Chris Hinett. She was angry about the fact that Henry Solicitors, Chris’ new firm, had approached all those charged in the DE project, to come to his Lawfirm. We were being traded and negotiated over as if we were cattle, I felt weighed and judged by the pound, in weight and money. The quarrel over the DE-fenders lasted longer than all our court procedures together, an embarassing display of greed and envy.
The five in the box were committed to stand trial on March 8, a week before the MEP’s, who were arrested after all the protesters.
After these five, the next 10 were called in to the aquarium like accused-box, that is, 8 in the box, Patman and Chris Baldwin were in the courtroom, in wheelchairs, of course.They were also committed to appear on March 8, like the previous group.
I was up next, alone, I had to lean forward in the glass box, with my ear near a split in the glass-shields, to be able to understand the Judge, or what he may be.
They had my name wrong for the third time, as well as my adress, wich would be enough to be aquitted in Holland, but after the Judge read out the accusations against me, I answered with: “Correct”.
My next day in the Justice Rotary system was also set on March 8, eventhough I was the last one arrested, after the MEP’s, I belong to the footsoldiers.
Next in the box was Elwood, who did not want any legal representation, but he had to do with miss Herman, and had to change to whom he wanted after being committed, he complied under protest.
One of the Lee brothers was up next, committed to be in Crown Court on March 8, next…
The last group, four, as I recall, are also expected in Court on March 8, we were all asked to clear the courtroom, wich we gladly did, after the hoax we just witnessed, with the included cowtrade.
Everybody rushed out, to light up, some of us lit up joints, like Patman and Chris Baldwin, in front of the door to the Magistrates Court, the police stayed away at that time. More people started to light up, a guy I met, but who’s name I do not know (info?) was the second arrest of the day, Chris, Patman and many others puffing a joint were left alone. The arrest made me shout out : “ Yesterday, a man called Marco Pannella, an Italian MEP, was not arrested for cannabis possession, and send out of the Police station, today, an English citizen, gets arrested for smoking a joint, this shows how the Law is applied in the UK !!” It was a disgusting sight, after having witnessed how Marco Pannella was sent off. The UK discriminates its own citizens, sad but true.
After this, there was a third arrest, Jeff, the man who wants to open a coffeeshop in Rhyl, N-Wales, was arrested for handing a piece of cannabis-chocolate to Patman, and charged with possession and possession with intent to supply. Patman, who accepted and ate the chocolate, was not charged with possession??
Jeff (DANZIG) was also given a restraining order, he is not allowed in and around the Court and the Police Station, as the court expects him to cause more trouble, he is allowed to be there for his courtcase, though. Danzig, stalker of two buildings ?
These arrests showed that Marco Pannella was right, when he told me something on the way to the Stockport Police Station, the day before, in Italian, but I knew what he meant, I speak spanish, a similar language : “They kick the little dogs, but they don’t kick the big dogs !”
The Police did arrest Winston, he was smoking a bong in front of the Courthouse, he was taken to the police station, and released after having taken a caution, so he was free to be arrested in the afternoon march.
We all went back to the Dutch Experience, to inhale some ‘fresh’ air and to organise the afternoon march, the group looked more impressive than ever before on events like these, and they were all ready to march in to an arrest, later that day.
The coffeeshop could not contain all visitors, so we ended up filling most of the passage before the DE as well, it took me a while to get a cup of tea, and only after two interviews, one with a Spanish cannabis magazine, Canamo.
Lawrence arrived too, we made sure he got some proper medicine in, before we would try to be arrested together, as the first duo, followed by Patman with Jimmy and Chris Baldwin, as we planned. Smoke and slogans were all around, we were all ready to rumble!
C!day, the Afternoon march.
The plan was as follows :
The people in wheelchairs would light up or be supplied first, Lawrence and me would try to take the lead, followed by Patman and Jimmy, and Chris Baldwin with one of the protesters, Trev, his buddy, could not be arrested for a good reason. This way we would occupy six officers, allowing the ‘footsoldiers’ to show and exchange their baggies of weed, in front of cameras and police, to show we were all supplying others with cannabis. The Dutch people would all ask for a doctor and a translator, after being arrested, and play dumb, everybody had stuffed his/her pockets with idiotic items, so the arresting officers had a lot of paperwork.
We walked, hopped (Chris on crutches) and wheeled back up to the Police Station, where the BBC was already waiting, and took position opposite the entrance, as usual. We started shouting slogans, to get the police’s attention, I started a joint with Lawrence, and put it in his mouth, he can then handle it from there.
No sign of any police activity, more people started lighting up joints, the BBC on top of it all.
The baggies came out, after the first joints were finished, and more joints were already being made, we had to keep the aroma around us, the police did not even open a window, way different from the last time we handed some of us in, we saw the police filming us with several cameras from the first floor, now we did not see one move. We kept on chanting and shouting, sounded well between the buildings, being the Courthouse and the Police station.
We were informed that the police started using an other entrance, the main entrance was under construction, so we moved to the back of the building, where the policecars enter the premises.
The officers there were shattered, and showed signs of upcoming panic, we just positioned ourselves, the baggies started to change hands again, under the most polite comments : “May I supply you?”, or : “My baggy for your baggy?”.
Others openly started rolling joints, more officers came up from their bunker, but none of them came up to arrest one of the 50 bagswitchers, we were only ordered to clear the road, and stay on the sidewalk. I ate a piece of chocolate, and gave the rest to two others, Jeff was arrested for that, I was not even noticed. The cannabis-show started, in front of about 8 desperate police officers. The BBC, the Money Programme and our own three digital cameras were not enough to cover the separate actions that occurred over the following half hour, I just tried to keep track of what all took place in front of the cops.
My niece, Kim, asked Maruska if she could offer her baggy to an officer, to try and be arrested, Maruska turned to me, I was out of joints, Frank was rolling Lawrence and me a new one, so I said she could give it a go, we would follow anyway. Kim walked up to the nearest officer, holding up her baggy, and asked if she could be arrested. The officer was not happy, but took the baggy of her hand, took out his notebook, and wrote down Kim’s name, she has the same last name as me, a disadvantage? The officer asked her adres, Kim replied “ Groningenlaan achtenvijftig (58), Haarlem.”. The cop looked up in awe, and asked : “Are you from Holland ?”. Kim confirmed his suspicion, the officer pocketed the baggy and his notebook, told Kim not to do it again and to forget about it, and walked of, leaving Kim, Maruska, me and all others around us with our mouth open.
Other officers were offered baggies and arrests as well, only the baggies were taken in, not even all of them. Dibbz’s baggy was taken, and his name and adress were written in the notebook of the officer that ‘did’ him, in front of the Money Programme crew. Five people in the background waved their joints, and shouted to the officers to attract attention, no respons, so the evidence went up in smoke.
People were rolling up, smoking joints, passing baggies, and nobody was arrested, we were delighted and very provocative. The Munki called in, he heard that more officers were on their way to us, from Manchester, the news was picked up with a scanner. I passed the message, we might still be all arrested anyway, we just had to stay as we were. Bored protesters dropped about 15 baggies of weed on the window-wipers of a policevan, and were taking pictures of it, looked surrealistic.
The police tried to at least keep us on the sidewalk, but that was no longer possible, everybody stepped up to the officers to provoce them, in front of all cameras.
Then, Neil, an imported Briton, from Haarlem, walked up to an officer to hand in his baggy, the officer he approached, took the baggy. Neil asked for a receipt, the officer wrote him one ! After receiving his receipt, the BBC wanted Neil to comment in front of their camera, wich he did. As he was explaining what happened, he was supplied with a joint, by Frank, one of the Dutch DE-fenders.
Neil started puffing away on it, carrying on with his story for the BBC, as the officer that took his baggy noticed him smoking, and walked up to him, pointing at the joint. He asked Neil if it was a cannabis joint, Neil took another toke,and replied :” I just got it handed, but it does smell like cannabis, yes.”
The officer arrested Neil, and took him into the garage, to take him in to custody, while Neil kept on smoking on the joint. By the time the officer took it, there was not much left as evidence anyway. I pushed Frank forward, and said he should tell the officer he supplied the joint to Neil. He rushed forward, shouting :’I supplied him, I supplied him !”. He was ignored, but not by the BBC !
We were stunned, we were all offending, and only one person, a Briton again, was arrested, after more than an hour of smoking, rolling, supplying and provocing !
Maruska just finished a joint, she rolled it up in front of the away-looking officers. She was there with Lawrence, who really wanted to be taken in, and put the joint in his mouth, on his request. She pointed to Lawrence, and asked the officer in front of them why he was not arrested, and explained that he came for that purpose only, in support of Colin, his healer ! The officer did not react, wich made Maruska take the joint, and she smoked it in his face. She asked to be arrested, pointing out that Neil was arrested, for doing the same, smoking a joint. Marcel was on top with his camera. The officer said : “That was my collegue, he arrested that man, I do not arrest you.”.(?) Maruska smoked on the joint again, and held it up to the officer. The officer then took the joint, extinguished it with his gloved hands, put it in a pocket of his jacket, and walked away, leaving Maruska and Lawrence in disbelieve. Maruska demanded to be arrested, but she was not served.
I walked over to Chris Hinett, who was watching from far, and asked what was going on, but he did not have an answer. I told him the various interpretations of the law I witnessed, and asked if that was enough to be able to show the inconsequence of the GMP in Crown Court. Chris said it was obviously more than enough.
I walked back to the line of scrimmage, joints and baggies were still being passed around, no more action from the police. Some people thought it was enough, so we decided to leave, what more could we do, nobody got arrested after Neil, no matter how hard they tried, and everything was recorded on video.
I announced our return to the coffeeshop, explaining we could not be arrested anyway, and we were all thirsty. I also announced that we would be smoking and passing on in the Dutch Experience, so if the police felt like arresting us, they knew where to find us.
I had to drag Maruska with me, she insisted she would be arrested, but she came with us, still protesting against every officer we passed on the way to the Dutch Experience. It was a walk of triumph, we felt like we just won a major battle, we were still smokin’….
Colin can be proud of us, he has seen us on tv…
The DE was packed again, with smiling, smoking and excited people, those who missed the Struggle of Stockport were informed by the proud DE-fenders, the first pictures came in after half an hour, to prove our words and actions. Jeff was back from the police station too, his eyes were shining of joy, over the succes of the day, I shook his hand for his sweet, chocolate action. He was proud he did it, as he stated, and it made him a true coffeeshopman to be, they have all been arrested for cannabis before opening.
The BBC was still there after an hour, just looking on, not filming. I decided to out my suspicions, and asked them if they were still here because they thought the police would come ? “ Well”, said the cameraman, “I already said they will not come anymore now….” I told them that they would not come, why should they, if they wanted to arrest people in the DE, they can come any time, any day. They decided to leave, confused about the events of C!day, but with a load of good material for their program.
The evening was spent by sharing experiences and joints, most of the charged went back to places like Worthing, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, after saying goodbye to all in the Dutch Experience.
I left the next morning, loads of things to do in Holland, the rest of the “UnDutchables”, but one, followed a few hours later. Bart stayed in the Dutch Experience, to manage the place, until Colin is free, and maybe even after that time.
Next event : Colin, Phil, Steve and Roo in Crown Court : February 15. Be there to show your support, break a Law !
Still amazed !
Note : everything stated above, can be backed with video footage ! (NvS.)
Third MEP faces Stockport cannabis arrest
Ananova, Monday 28 Jan 2002
Greater Manchester Police say they will arrest an Italian MEP scheduled to arrive at Stockport police station with cannabis.
Marco Pannella, leader of the Transnational Radical Party, is expected to hand himself in as a protest.
His party is supporting a campaign against the prohibition of cannabis.
He will be the third MEP to be arrested over the drug by Stockport police since December. Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies was arrested for cannabis possession
during a protest march in December. Days later another Italian MEP, Marco Cappato, was arrested outside Stockport police station.
A police spokeswoman says Mr Pannella will be arrested if he turns up with cannabis in his possession.
"This is the third time an MEP will have turned up and in the other two instances, they have been arrested," added the spokeswoman.
Mr Davies and Mr Cappato are due to appear in Magistrates Court for committal proceedings.
Their protests were sparked by the November arrest of Colin Davies, the owner of the UK's first Dutch-style cannabis cafe in Stockport.
All three MEPs are supporting Mr Davies, no relation to the Liberal Democrat MEP, who is being held in Strangeways Prison.
It's believed Mr Pannella will refuse bail after his arrest and will seek a bail hearing at the same time as the committal hearings for Colin Davies and his two MEP colleagues.
Italian MEP not arrested for cannabis possession
Ananova, Monday 28 Jan 2002
An Italian MEP hoping to be arrested by Stockport police for cannabis possession has been sent away after refusing a caution.
Marco Pannella, the leader of the Transnational Radical Party, was in the city to protest against the prohibition of cannabis.
A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman told Ananova a small quantity of a substance was confiscated and Mr Pannella was turned away.
Two other MEPs, Liberal Democrat Chris Davies and Italian Marco Cappato, were arrested and charged with possession of cannabis in December. Both are due in magistrates court in the city tomorrow. The police spokeswoman said officers have the power to caution those in possession of small amounts of the drug and said the officer concerned used his discretion in dealing with 71-year-old Mr Pannella.
But Chris Davies claimed the failure to arrest his parliamentary colleague marked a change in policy from the Greater Manchester force. "For those people campaigning for a change in cannabis legislation, this is a significant victory," he said.
However, the GMP spokeswoman said the decision doesn't alter their commitment to tackling drug abuse. "The interests of the people of Greater Manchester would be better served with police resources being deployed to tackle crime and disorder within the community rather than being squandered becoming embroiled in political debates," added a police statement.
A Home Office spokesman told Ananova cannabis possession is illegal but said it was up to Chief Constables and their officers to interpret the law. He said there are no proposals to legalise the drug but said the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs is considering a proposal to reclassify
cannabis as a Class C substance.
That would mean possession of cannabis for personal use would become a non-arrestable offence.
Euro MPs face drug charges court case
Chris Marritt, PA News, The Independent, Tuesday 29 Jan 2002
Two Euro-MPs were due in court on drug charges today after they were arrested as part of two protests against Britain's laws on cannabis.
Liberal Democrat Chris Davies was arrested before Christmas after he led a march to Stockport police station allegedly carrying a tiny piece of cannabis stuck to the back of a postage stamp.
Italian MEP Marco Cappato was arrested days later after turning up at Stockport magistrates' court to support Davies, allegedly clutching a small amount of the drug.
Cappato, a member of Italy's Radical Party, spent the night behind bars following his arrest before being granted bail by magistrates in the town last month.
Both men had joined protesters campaigning for The Dutch Experience - Britain's first Amsterdam-style cannabis cafe - which was opened last year.
Its owner, Colin Davies, supports prescribing cannabis as a medicine and was remanded in custody in the hospital wing of Strangeways Prison last November on drugs charges.
Cappato and Davies, who represents the North West of England in the European Parliament, were due to appear at Stockport magistrates' court this morning.
Half of cannabis smoked by Britons is homegrown
David Bamber, The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 10 Feb 2002
HALF of the cannabis smoked in Britain is being grown at people's homes rather than being imported by drugs barons, according to new research.
Figures to be released this week by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, which produces statistics used by the Government for policy planning, will show that 47 per cent of cannabis used in Britain in 2001 was home-grown by the user or a friend. This figure compares with 12.9 per cent in 1994.
The average cannabis smoker also uses almost twice as much of the drug - 44.5 grammes a year - as in 1994, when the figure was 24.8 grammes.
Critics say that the figures prove that the Government's relaxation of the laws on cannabis possession has led to a steep rise in the number of smokers growing their own supplies without fear of arrest, and believe that a message is being sent out that the drug is safe.
Baroness Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University who has produced medical evidence that the drug is harmful, said that regular cannabis use could leave smokers with serious health problems.
She said: "What we have to tell young people is that they are tampering with the most special part of their bodies - their brains, their minds - over a long time." Critics also believe that relaxing the laws on cannabis has fuelled a move to harder drugs.
In June last year, the Metropolitan Police announced that in Lambeth, south London, officers would not arrest anyone caught with a small amount of cannabis but instead would caution them. The Police Federation, which represents all ranks below superintendent, later claimed that the six-month policing experiment had failed.
Fred Broughton, the federation's chairman, told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee last month that the scheme had failed to cut drug use and cannabis was being smoked openly on the streets of Brixton. Crack dealers are becoming more active as a result, he said.
A leading Government adviser on drugs told The Telegraph, however, that cannabis users should be allowed to grow dope plants in their own homes without any fear of being prosecuted.
Roger Howard, a member of the Home Office Advisory Group on Drugs, said that as David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has announced that cannabis possession is to be downgraded from a class B to a class C offence, it made sense to allow people to grow it.
Mr Howard said: "As the Government moves towards making small-scale cannabis possession a non-arrestable offence, I hope it will resolve this contradiction by differentiating in law between small-scale cultivation for personal use and large-scale production controlled by organised crime."
Last night Janet Betts, the mother of Leah Betts who died after taking ecstasy on her 18th birthday in Essex in 1995, condemned the suggestion.
She said: "It is unbelievable that a Government adviser could recommend changing the law on cultivation of cannabis in the home. Cannabis is a dangerous drug.
"Would you like your dentist or bus driver to be using Australian super skunk cannabis that could blow your socks off? Just because it is in your own home does not mean that it is all right."
Conference to debate legalised cannabis use
Ananova, Tuesday 19 Feb 2002
Health, drugs and welfare experts are to attend a conference to discuss social issues surrounding the possible reclassification of cannabis.
The meeting comes as health officials revealed how cannabis-based painkillers could be made available on prescription from the NHS.
The event will see delegates discussing issues and sharing experiences.
It has been organised by the North West Public Health Observatory, the Drug Prevention Advisory Service and HIT - which provides training, consultation and information on drugs related issues in the Mersey region.
Speakers are expected to include Bob Keizer, the Drug Policy Advisor to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport in the Netherlands, who will explain how Dutch policy is based on health protection principles.
Small quantities of cannabis, on sale in Dutch cafes, have been decriminalised since 1976 to discourage users from moving on to harder, illegal drugs.
Delegates from education, employment and local government will discuss, among other topics, the detrimental effect which a conviction for cannabis possession can have on an individual's health and future.
Dutch official recommends drug cafes
Helen Carter, The Guardian, Wednesday 20 Feb 2002
A drug policy adviser from the Netherlands said yesterday that cafes which sell cannabis should be opened in Britain.
Bob Keizer, who works for the ministry of health in the Netherlands, told the inaugural cannabis conference in Liverpool there was no reason why cannabis cafes should not work in the UK.
The conference brought together public health officials, drugs workers, police and cannabis campaigners. It was organised after home secretary David Blunkett's announcement that cannabis was to be reclassified from a class B to a class C drug which opened debate about decriminalisation.
"In the Netherlands... decriminalisation has not led to an increase in cannabis use," said Mr Keizer. "The fact that young people don't get a criminal record for using the drug a few times is a very positive element of our policy. Police are able to invest their capacity in more serious crimes.
"Cannabis cafes help to take dealers off the street. If we allow them in this country there will be less street dealing. If the cafes close, the dealers return."
The conference was organised by Mark Bellis, of the Northwest Public Health Observatory. He said: "There are negative aspects because of its association with tobacco use, but if it were decriminalised it would allow police to concentrate on heroin."
Not all the delegates were in favour of decriminalisation. John Witton,of the National Addiction Centre in London, said cannabis has been linked to increased risk of cancers.
Call To Decriminalise 'Safe Cannabis'
Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 20 Feb 2002
A TOP doctor has called for the decriminalisation of cannabis - because it is ''less harmful'' than alcohol to his heroin addict patients.
Dr Tony Quinnell, senior clinical medical officer at St Thomas's Hospital in Stockport, says addicts risk their lives if they mix alcohol with heroin and methadone.
He said: ''Many of my clients tell me that they would either smoke cannabis or drink alcohol and there are very significant harmful effects with alcohol.
''If it were legal for them to use it, for the majority of clients it would be less harmful to them than alcohol. I have to tell them the legal implications and health risks associated with cannabis use as well. It has been linked to mouth, tongue and lung cancer because of the smoking.
Opiates are considerably more harmful, they cause immense physical harm and are highly dependant.”
''Legally, I must not encourage cannabis use but I know that there are substantial risks to my clients if they drink alcohol, including a significant death rate. Tobacco and alcohol are, in effect, decriminalised drugs, they are sold under licence and there are restrictions on who they are sold to. Legalising cannabis would be technically difficult but in my opinion, looking at the evidence, I can see very few reasons for not decriminalising it.''
Dr Quinnell is taking part in a conference on cannabis and its new legal status organised by the North West Public Health Observatory in Liverpool.
Medical experts, police officers, addiction specialists and representatives of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance are also attending.
Pro-cannabis campaigner Colin Davies, from Stockport, claims the drug can be an effective treatment for pain. He smokes the drug to combat chronic back pain and opened a cannabis cafe in the town. He is now in prison awaiting trial for possession of the drug.
Two countries took the drugs test. Who passed?
David Rose, The Observer, Sunday 24 Feb 2002
In Holland, there is no war on drugs. They believe this is a social problem, not a criminal one. And all the evidence suggests that theirpolicy works.
David Rose reports from Utrecht.
On the busy road which skirts Hoog Catherijne, a vast indoor shopping mall, the Stationsplein centre in downtown Utrecht looks like some kind of clinic. The walls are tiled, the floor is bright linoleum. There's a neat reception area and, four days a week, a nurse. Stationsplein's main
business happens in a row of glass-fronted rooms, equipped with benches and sinks. In one of them crack addicts suck vapours from makeshift pipes; in another, heroin smokers chase the dragon. A final space is reserved for injectors. It goes without saying that their state-provided
needles are clean.
Last week in Britain, some commentators were endorsing calls from the newly ennobled former New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, to jail cannabis smokers , and vilifying Brian Paddick, police commander of Lambeth, for telling an internet forum that the drug laws need reform. To arrive in
Holland's fourth largest city is to cross a cultural chasm. First there is the obvious: like most Dutch towns, Utrecht, population 300,000, has its coffee shops, 40 of them, each selling dozens of brands of cannabis to smoke at the tables or take away. In Holland, ideas considered
dangerously radical in Britain attract little controversy. 'There is no war on drugs in the Netherlands,' says Machel Vewer, a senior police detective who has spent the past decade working with addicts. 'What's the point of making war on part of your own country? Drugs are here and they're always going to be. This is a social problem, not a criminal one, and the whole of society has to tackle it - not leave it to thepolice on their own.
'This means accepting that addicts are people too: that they have their backgrounds, their stories, and you have to respect them. They can still lead useful lives, and they're not a lost group. If you look at England, France, Spain, they all have drug problems. But Holland started thinking
about how to deal with this much earlier. We're not deluded we can solve the problem entirely, but we can contain it, make it controllable. You are 20 years behind.'
This is no utopia. Around the stairwells and walkways of Hoog Catherijne, Utrecht's addicts, many of them homeless, are highly visible: hunched, gaunt, unshaven. The mall and its customers, brimming with prosperity, present an inevitable target for thefts to fund purchases from dealers, which still remain illegal. But measured against the near-catastrophe of drugs policy in Britain, the evidence suggests the Dutch are right.
Last summer I spent weeks researching two Observer articles about hard drugs in Britain. As I rapidly discovered, the past decade has seen an explosion in Class A drug use, mainly crack and heroin. Seizures by Customs and police have soared, but the price has fallen steadily, while the market has expanded far beyond its former inner-city strongholds. In Cotswold villages of golden stone and tea shoppes, heroin can be summoned more easily than a takeaway meal. As the drug research charity Drugscope confirmed last week, teenagers are progressing from cannabis to crack and heroin much more quickly.
With increasing drug dependency, drug-related crime has surged. Good intentions and good ideas to deal with this crisis have not been lacking. Since the mid-1990s, Governments have recognised the need to cut demand through education, and invested heavily in drug
rehabilitation. Yet, with the sole exception of the present Home Secretary David Blunkett's move to reclassify cannabis as a Category C drug, the basic legal framework has remained untouched. Commander Paddick can ask his officers not to arrest for smoking a spliff, but sanctioning coffee shops is not within his remit. More radical reform remains a political taboo.
In Holland, drug policy begins with pragmatism. Its central objective, says Harold Wychgel, of Drugscope's Dutch equivalent, the Utrecht Trimbos Institute, 'is to reduce the risks posed by the use of drugs to the users themselves, people in their immediate vicinity, and society at large'. The Dutch accept that achieving this may require apparent contradictions and compromises.
Selling cannabis through coffee shops remains theoretically illegal.
'They could close me down tomorrow,' says the manager of Utrecht's largest, a fume-filled den in a fine Renaissance building by the banks of the Rhine canal. Yet his trade is merely regulated, with the police checking that his bags of resin from the Middle East and potent hydroponic 'Nederweed' weigh no more than 5g, and that none of his customers is under 18. The policy is rigorously enforced, says Vewer. One shop was caught supplying to under-age smokers, and its licence waswithdrawn.
In the coffee shops, the police are regulating businesses dependent on organised crime. At their back doors, owners buy their supplies from criminal importers and traffickers, who just as in Britain are investigated, prosecuted and sent to prison. Is this a problem? Vewershrugs genially. Apparently not.
The Rhine canal shop manager smiles. 'I've been doing this for 25years.' He pauses. 'Buying is just... well, allowed.'
In border areas, and in honeypots such as Amsterdam, coffee shops have boosted Holland's income from tourists. However, the reason they began to appear in 1976 was as a means of separating the markets for soft and hard drugs, and thus for closing the dealers' 'gateway' from cannabis to heroin and cocaine.
The policy may rely on a legal fudge, but the evidence that it works is overwhelming. 'Just look at the figures,' says Wychgel. 'Heroin is just not an issue here in the Netherlands. The number of addicts has been stable, at around 25,000, for20 years. And the addicts are getting older; few youngsters are joining them.'
At an average £20 a gram, Dutch heroin is about half the price it is in England, where the fact that the drug is cheaper than it was in 1990 has helped dealers persuade their customers to transfer from cannabis. Per head of population, Holland has perhaps a quarter of Britain's addicts.
Meanwhile, Holland also has significantly fewer cannabis smokers, especially among teenagers. From the age of 10, children are given drugs education. It tries, says Wychgel, to present the facts about drugs in a way which removes any sense of glamour, but leaves the decision up to
the individual. 'We say, "It's your responsibility, this is what drugs will do." We don't tell kids simply "no", we say "know".'
Trimbos surveys 10,000 Dutch schoolchildren every four years. The last study, in 1999, showed a small decline in cannabis use - 20 per cent of those aged 15-16 had tried it, and 5 per cent smoked it regularly. Less than one in 1,000 had tried heroin. The same year the European Drug
Monitoring Centre found 40 per cent of British children the same age had tried cannabis, and one in 50 had used heroin.
A similar pragmatism, with reducing harm as the governing principle, is visible in the way Utrecht deals with hard drugs. The smoking and shooting rooms at Stationsplein form part of an impressive network of facilities. Some deal with the homeless addict's survival needs. At the
Inloop (Walk in) centre, beneath another part of the shopping mall, registered users can get a shower, clean clothes, cheap hot food, a game of pool and a respite from the rigours of the street.
The new Stek building, a smart bungalow next to a canal, combines drug-taking rooms with a cafe and common room. From an addict's point of view, the benefits are obvious. 'Before they built this place,' says Martin, 34, a crack and heroin user for 16 years, 'they hunted us. You had to use on the street and look behind you. Now you can really enjoy your stuff, and you're not so stressed. Life is much less aggressive.'
At the same time, Vewer argues, wider society is also better off. The addicts' centres provide immediate access to rehabilitation programmes and employment training for those who want them, and some work at the centres themselves, cleaning, cooking or washing clothes and bedding.
Ruud Laukon, a field coordinator from Utrecht's main drug social work project, the Centrum Maliebaan, works seamlessly with Vewer: 'We and the police have the same viewpoint. If you treat addicts as criminals, they'll treat you as criminals do. Sending them to prison doesn't solve
The addicts used to spend their days in a dark, fetid pedestrian tunnel beneath the Hoog Catherijne mall, which has now been closed.
Intimidating and dangerous for passers-by, it also saw frequent violence between addicts. 'It's much easier now to have good relationships with them,' Vewer says. 'It creates a set of rules, and the addicts know they have to abide by them. It makes the scene much easier to control.'
Patrolling the mall with two uniformed policemen, Robert Wisman and Sander van der Kamp, the personal nature of that control is strikingly apparent. Time and again, users greet the officers and stop to talk. As we pass through the maze of shops and restaurants, they point out the known dealers, some of whom they have sent to prison. In Utrecht, as in Britain, addicts steal to fund their habits. As we walk, Wisman explains how the thin blue line tries to hold back crime. 'We have a lot of bicycle theft. The addicts steal bikes and sell them to students. And theft from cars: they break the windows, take the stereo; and naturally some shoplifting, and a few pickpockets.' How about robbery, muggings? Wisman stops and the two officers confer. 'I think there may have beenone last year. I'm not sure. It's very rare.' Car-jackings? They laugh. 'Not here.'
Official figures bear them out. The Hoog Catherijne may be the centre of Utrecht's drug scene, but crime is no more common there than anywhere else. In 2000, the International Crime Victims Survey confirmed the impression from the streets: the crimes typically committed by drug
addicts - burglary, robbery, shoplifting and theft from cars - are all significantly more prevalent in Britain than in Holland.
Before boarding my train for the airport, I ask Wisman if he likes his job. 'Very much,' he says. 'Sometimes I get a little depressed that there's never going to be a real solution to the drug scene. But then again, I certainly don't think things are getting worse.'
His reply speaks volumes about the difference between the British and Dutch approaches to drugs and crime. In Britain, successive politicians and police chiefs have vowed to defeat drugs, and in presenting their rhetorichave pumped up the enemy in the eyes of the public, exaggerating
its strength and demonising addicts, using the media to create waves of what criminologists call 'crime panics'. The result has been an almost complete restriction on political room to manoeuvre.
In Holland, a calmer conception of the relationship between the state and citizen, and awareness of the state's limitations, have created a strategy of containment and limiting harm, and where necessary, anexpedient, pragmatic fudge. There's little doubt which has been more effective.
How Britain now outstrips Holland
The Observer, Sunday 24 Feb 2002
Teenagers who have tried cannabis
Teenagers who have tried heroin
Holland: under 0.01%
'Problem' hard drug addicts
Percentage of population robbed in past year
Percentage of population whose car was stolen in past year
Holland: under 0.5%
Recent (in last month) use of cannabis by 15-year olds
Bob Keizer: There's Nothing Soft About Dutch Drugs Policy
Bob Keizer, The Independent, Monday 25 Feb 2002
From a speech by a Dutch government drugs adviser at the Cannabis: Shaping a New Agenda conference, held in Liverpool
To understand Dutch drug policy it is essential to know something of the Netherlands, as policies are in keeping with the characteristics and culture of the country that produces them. The Dutch have a strong belief in individual freedom and in the division between "church" (in other words, morality) and state. We believe in pragmatism and have a strong sense of responsibility for collective welfare. Our administrative system is decentralised to the local authorities to a large extent, particularly where drug policy is concerned.
These characteristics are reflected in our present drug policy, which was formulated in the mid-Seventies. A wide range of addict-care facilities is available. Dutch policy does not moralise, but is based on the assumption that drug use is a fact and must be dealt with as practically as possible. Our most important objective is to prevent, or to limit, the risks and harm associated with drug use, both to the user himself and to his environment. Because of this, the Ministry of
Health is responsible for co-ordinating drug policy.
Many people think that drugs are legally available in the Netherlands and that we make no effort to combat the supply side of the drug market. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is continual intensive co-operation between the addict-care system, the judicial authorities and the public administrators. With the exception of small-scale cannabis dealing in coffee shops, since 1976, tackling all other forms of drug dealing and production has high priority.
Cannabis use in the Netherlands, as in all other countries, has increased in recent years and the age at which users start has gradually decreased. There are, however, signs that cannabis use is
stabilising and even decreasing in the Netherlands. The trend towards increased use and the present scale of use are comparable with those in the surrounding countries of Germany, France and Belgium and certainly lower than those in the UK and the US.
Thanks to a high standard of care and prevention, including the large-scale dispensation of methadone and clean hypodermics, the number of hard drug (heroin or cocaine) addicts, stabilised about 10 years ago, at the level of 2.5 per 1,000 inhabitants. This means that the Netherlands is among the three countries, after Finland and Germany, with the smallest number of problem addicts in the European Union. Although not an ideal policy, bearing in mind our objective of harm limitation, our drugs policy is reasonably successful.
Coffee shop policy is administered locally. Many of the petty criminal problems surrounding the coffee shops can be traced back to the fact that local administrators and police did not really know how the policy should be pursued. Hardly surprising since the coffee shops are still operating in an administrative no-man's land. Sales of cannabis "at the front door" are not legal, but they are tolerated. However, purchases "at the back door" do not fall under this policy of tolerance. In practice, this means that the coffee shop owner is forced to buy the cannabis on the illegal market. Therefore something that is forbidden is nonetheless tolerated. The mayors, police chiefs and politicians continue to support the concept and there is debate now about allowing a system of cultivation of cannabis to supply a limited number of coffee shops.
Closing the coffee shops would certainly lead to an increase in dealing on the streets, in private homes and in school playgrounds.
This would undoubtedly be accompanied by hard drug sales, while the rate of use among the population would not decline, bearing in mind the figures for use in other countries.
Liverpool - Cannabis Coffee Shop for City
BBC Online, Wednesday 27 Feb 2002
Plans are underway to open a dutch style cannabis cafe in Liverpool.
Although no cannabis will be sold, smokers would be able to smoke the drug in the cafe environment.
Nol van Schaik, the co owner of the Dutch Experience, which is a similar venture based in Stockport, says he was approached by a Liverpool entrepreneur at a cannabis conference in Liverpool last week.
Although such cafes are tolerated in Holland, possession of Cannabis is illegal in the UK, however there are plans to reduce the classifications from Class B to a Class C drug.
Manchester Police raided the Stockport coffee shop part owned by Van Schaik, on its opening day. British owner Colin Davies is still on remand in Strangeways awaiting trial on various drugs related charges.
The planners believe a cannabis cafe in Liverpool would operate without any problems.
Dutch-style coffee shop owner denies charges
Ananova, Friday 08 Mar 2002
A man who opened an Amsterdam-style coffee shop has been remanded in custody after denying 10 drug-related charges.
Colin Davies, 44, of Romney Towers, Brinnington, Stockport, pleaded not guilty to two counts of permitting cannabis to be smoked in the cafe, seven charges of possession of cannabis and one charge of evading the prohibition of importation of the drug.
The Dutch Experience Cafe in Stockport was opened last year and Davies was arrested and remanded in the hospital wing of Strangeways Prison last November.
Davies, dressed in a T-shirt which read "I am already a prisoner of a body that doesn't work", stood in the dock at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court with four co-defendants.
Davies and Andrew Young, 30, of Reddish Road, Stockport - charged with five counts of possession of cannabis and one count of offering to supply the drug - were remanded in custody.
Stephen Caveney, 47, of Rishworth Close, Offerton, Greater Manchester, denied two counts of possession of cannabis, two counts of intent to supply cannabis and one count of possession and intent to supply the drug.
Philip Rainford, 34, of Millgate, Market Place, Stockport, denied one count of permitting cannabis to be smoked in the cafe and two counts of possession of cannabis.
Robin Wright, 45, of Duncan Road, Longsight, Manchester, denied one count of permitting cannabis to be smoked in the cafe and one count of possession of cannabis. All three were granted conditional bail.
Some 30 supporters turned up for the court appearance. A trial date was set for June 24.
Lib Dems support cannabis legalisation
Ananova, Saturday 09 Mar 2002
Legalisation of cannabis has been adopted as official Liberal Democrat policy against the advice of the party's policy group.
The effective decriminalisation of the drug was recommended in a paper put before the Lib Dem Spring conference.
But delegates opted to go one step further and back legalisation, a policy that will now have to be included in the party's manifesto at the next election.
They also voted at the Manchester gathering to accept a second amendment calling for doctors to be given the power to prescribe heroin to addicts.
The policy represents the most far-reaching reform of drug laws proposed by a party and makes the Lib Dems the first of the big three to advocate the legalisation of cannabis.
As well as ending jail terms for possession of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, it would also see ecstasy changed from a Class A to Class B drug.
Mr Hughes says that is justified as the dance drug is in a "different league" to the more dangerous substances.
He and colleagues stress that while users will escape jail the penalties for dealers will be toughened up, with the selling of drugs near schools leading to a longer sentence.
Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, who has himself previously backed legalisation, did not take part in the discussion or vote.
However, he said: "This has been an important debate about a difficult issue which the Liberal Democrats have had the courage to consider in a thoughtful and sensitive way. The party has decided that the criminal law should concentrate on the dealers, traffickers and exploiters of drugs rather than the users who need help and treatment."
Lib Dems vote to legalise cannabis
Eben Black, The Sunday Times, Sunday 10 Mar 2002
CANNABIS should be legalised, the Liberal Democrats agreed at a party conference yesterday, writes Eben Black.
In a formal vote the party called for a relaxation of the drug laws. It included the downgrading of ecstasy from a class A to a class B restricted drug.
Kennedy himself did not vote on the issue, raised at the party's spring conference in Manchester, arguing that he was busy working on his keynote speech for tomorrow. Earlier, however, he had said it did the party 'no harm' to raise the issue.
The Liberal Democrat decision comes as a government body is expected to recommend this week to David Blunkett, the home secretary, that cannabis should be legally downgraded to give it the same status as prescription drugs such as Valium.
Home Office sources say Blunkett has yet to decide whether to take the advice, expected from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Blunkett announced in October that he planned to change the law so that people caught with the drug for their own use would no longer be arrested. A pilot scheme in Brixton, south London, has been judged a success by police.
The Liberal Democrats yesterday were also considering a call to end the threat of imprisonment for possession of any drug. Its youth wing wanted to go further, proposing the full legalisation of cannabis. But the leadership had recommended that only possession be decriminalised, leaving the way open for dealers still to be prosecuted.
The Liberal Democrat stance comes after what the party describes as a 'full policy review' of the issue. Kennedy said yesterday that it was 'wrong to walk away from people, particularly young people, and give them that criminal penalty'.
He went on: 'We should aim to rehabilitate and to encourage a mature, earnest and open debate in our society which actually prevents people being exposed to the issue in the first place. I think that will find an echo with almost every household in the country.'
Cannabis MEP Says Not Guilty
Oldham Evening Chronicle, Friday 15 Mar 2002
Oldham MEP Chris Davies may be forced to face trial outside the North-West after a judge said today that there could be a conflict of interests.
Mr Davies, who is campaigning for legalisation of cannabis, this morning pleaded not guilty to a charge of possessing the Class B drug.
But before deciding on a trial date, Judge David Fish, speaking at Minshull Street Crown Court, said he was not comfortable with the politician being tried by his own constituents.
Mr Davies, of Higher Kinders in Greenfield, handed himself in to police with a small amount of cannabis in December.
He was joined in the dock by fellow Euro MP Marco Capatto, of the Italian Radical Party, who had done the same just days later.
Mr Richard Orme, defending, said the two politicians may eventually represent themselves at a trial scheduled for two days and likely to take place in August.
Half of police have tried cannabis
Stewart Tendler, The Times, Saturday 16 Mar 2002
HALF of police officers questioned about enforcing the law on using cannabis admitted that they had taken the drug at some time in their lives.
The research now being studied by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, was carried out among Metropolitan and South Yorkshire police and shows that many support a more liberal approach.
Many clearly would support the Lambeth experiment in South London where users are given a warning and lose their drugs. Some have already been informally using a similar approach.
The research will bolster Mr Blunkett's plans to make cannabis use a less serious offence by making it a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 rather than a Class B one.
In the research 150 frontline patrol officers who would carry out stop and search operations for drugs were questioned anoymously for the Joseph Rowntree Trust. Half admitted using the drug.
The researchers also found that 85 per cent of those who had used the drug were prepared to be more tolerant in their treatment of users.
When the researchers asked the officers about the current legislation three quarters complained that drug laws criminalise people who would not otherwise have records.
Over half also believed that cannabis legislation harmed relations between police and young people, especially black and Asian communities.
Another said that those arrested for possession were less likely to help the police to solve more serious crimes.
Cannabis cafes set to open all around Britain as law changes
Anthony Browne, The Observer, Sunday 17 Mar 2002
More than a dozen Dutch-style cannabis cafes are being planned from Brighton to Glasgow in a major movement across the country. They range from converted warehouses to upmarket cafes in London with budgets of £250,000.
Less than a week after the Government's top drugs advisory committee called for cannabis to be downgraded from Class B to Class C - severely reducing penalties for possession - campaigners are setting up coffee shops confident that such a move is now all but inevitable. Last week the Liberal Democrats became the first mainstream party to adopt a policy of legalising the drug.
The cannabis entrepreneurs setting up the coffee shops include an affluent retired businessman, an internet pioneer and a wheelchair-bound victim of multiple sclerosis living on disability benefits. Many have been attending a special course in the Netherlands to teach British people how to run a coffee shop, including how to tell the difference between types of weed and the best
tactics for dealing with police and local authorities.
The movement has taken its cue from the Dutch Experience, Britain's first cannabis coffee shop in Stockport, which has been raided by police three times since opening last September. However, repeated mass protests made the police back off, and the coffee shop still attracts around 200 people a day. In the next fortnight, Dutch Experience 2, which is in the process of being decorated, is to open its doors in Bournemouth.
Other coffee shops are set to follow in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cumbria, Liverpool, Rhyl, Anglesey, Milton Keynes, Braintree, Brighton, Taunton, Worthing, and Lambeth and Hoxton in London. Britain is on course to follow the Netherlands in having a public cannabis cafe culture.
The campaigners have been encouraged by rapidly changing attitudes to the illegal drug, and the prospect of the Government downgrading it from Class B to Class C. All say they would like to co-operate with police and local authorities, but are prepared to go to prison if necessary.
Jimmy Ward, who went on the coffee-shop course in January, is currently working 16 hours a day with eight friends to prepare the Dutch Experience 2 for its opening in the next fortnight. Ward, who used to run a haulage business, was unable to persuade any landlord in Bournemouth to rent a cafe to him, so he is converting a storage unit he owns.
'We're studding the walls, putting in water, and a false ceiling,' he said. 'Ever since my girlfriend and I met 14 years ago we wanted to run a coffee shop. We thought we'd have to go to Holland, but with everything happening here, we thought we could open one in the UK.
'Everyone locally loves it - I've had so much support from the public. But no matter what the authorities do, I am determined to open this. I am not worried about going to jail, so long as when I come out it is still open.'
Ward has recruited pensioners to grow cannabis for him, supplying them with seeds and growlights, and has had expressions of interest from dozens more. 'It helps them to pay the winter fuel bills. They are angry about being lied to all these years about how dangerous cannabis is,' he said. A report last week from the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs concluded cannabis was less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.
Jeff Ditchfield, who went on the coffee-shop course with Ward, spent last week looking for a property to buy in Rhyl, north Wales, to convert to a coffee shop. 'I don't want it in a residential area or near a school or McDonalds, because the kids will try to come in,' said Ditchfield, who retired two years ago. His cafe will stick to the strict Dutch coffee-shop rules of banning all
alcohol, hard drugs and anyone under 18.
The Deputy Mayor of Rhyl, Glyn Williams, said the plan 'beggars belief', prompting Ditchfield to name his coffee shop 'The Beggars Belief'.
Williams said: 'We are not in the process of helping people break the law. I firmly believe that, if you downgrade cannabis, then there'll be so many more parents who'll come forward with tragic stories about their children.' However, the Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom, has publicly called for drugs to be legalised.
David Crane, the director of an internet company for seven years, is in the process of raising £250,000 for an upmarket coffee shop in Hoxton, London. ‘We've been speaking to a number of different people in the music business and media, and they are very keen, largely because they smoke dope themselves. I absolutely believe that coffee shops are a benefit to society,' he said.
Many of the cannabis entrepreneurs are veterans of protests at the Dutch Experience in Stockport. Almost 100 people, including the local MEP, went to Stockport police station holding cannabis and demanding to be arrested. After arresting 28 people, the police gave up, prompting protesters to declare cannabis had been legalised in Stockport.
Cannabis cafe to open near drug rehab centres
Ananova,Wednesday 20 Mar 2002
Work has begun on Bournemouth's first cannabis cafe, close to two drug rehabilitation centres.
The Dutch Experience cafe is due to open on April 1 near Clouds Working Recovery and the Clubhouse centre in Boscombe.
Customers will have to be over 18 and will be banned from consuming any other drugs or alcohol on the premises.
Funding for the shop has reportedly come from three Dutch millionaires and owner James Ward says the police won't stop him.
But Inspector Mark Kelly, from Boscombe police, said: "If such a premises is opened then we will deal with it appropriately."
Workmen have been busy renovating the old warehouse unit to make a shop front, a coffee shop and a "members' room", which will initially cater for around 25 people. The unit's been leased to Mr Ward for the last five years.
Mr Ward says he doesn't have any worries about the two rehabilitation centres nearby. "I think we are probably doing just as good a job as them. It has been proved cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco."
He said police will not stop the shop from opening. "They are having a cafe whether they like it or not, no matter what they do." Mr Ward told the Daily Echo: "It is useless for the police to come down, we will be making fools out of them on April 1."
Boscombe councillor Harry Cutler said: "I am absolutely disgusted that someone should even have the audacity to consider opening a place there. We have got enough problems here."
A Clouds spokesman said: "Our concern first, last and always is for the health and safety of our clients who are attempting to establish and maintain recovery through abstinence. Obviously threats to their recovery are ever present in society and our aim is to help develop ways to cope
with such wherever, whenever they may occur."
Dutch teach English how to run cannabis cafes
Ananova, Wednesday 20 Mar 2002
A course for English people on how to run a cannabis cafe is due to begin
Eleven English cannabis activists and entrepreneurs are already signed up to take the five-day course this weekend.
It covers regulation, product control and security. It is being run by two Dutch cannabis cafe owners.
The students will be taught the basics in three cannabis cafes and visit the hemp museum in Haarlem. They will also learn about regulation, product and stock control, security and social hygienics during workshops.
The owners, Nol Van Schaik and Wernard Bruining, are running the courses because of the UK's softening stance on the drug's legal status, reports Haarlem's Dagblad newspaper.
They believe it is only a matter of time before the drug is legalised in the UK. They also anticipate a steady stream of English people wanting to learn how to run cannabis cafe shops in Britain.
Britain's first cannabis cafe opened, briefly, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, last year.
It was very quickly raided by police and its Dutch owners and British co-landlord were arrested.
The cafe itself has not been shut down.
Four arrested over bid to build 'cannabis cafe'
Ananova, Tuesday 26 Mar 2002
Four men have been arrested on charges of attempting to build a cannabis cafe in a Dorset warehouse without the permission of the owner.
Officers made the arrests after renovations were made to a Bournemouth industrial unit with the intention of creating a Dutch-style cannabis cafe.
One man aged 30, two aged 22 and an 18-year-old, all from the Stockport and Manchester areas, were held on suspicion of causing criminal damage and offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Detective Inspector Steve Thorpe, of Bournemouth CID, said: "We received an allegation from the owners of the property in relation to damage caused by people illegally on the premises - that they have done alterations without the owner's consent.
"The other allegations we have to look at is whether there is any potential offence in the starting of a cannabis cafe. We think it was planned to open on April 1.
"We will be looking at the use of the premises and things done in the two or three weeks in the lead up to the opening."
There's No Business Like Dutch "Cannabizness"
Paul Gallagher, Reuters, Wednesday 27 Mar 2002
HAARLEM, Netherlands, (Reuters) - Entrepreneurs and cannabis connoisseurs this week smoked, cut and rolled hashish and marijuana at a five-day "Cannabizness" workshop teaching participants how to run Dutch-style coffee shops abroad.
Students at the "Coffee shop College" run by a cannabis cafe owner in the sedate city of Haarlem said they hoped to be able to ply the trade in licensed shops in their own countries as pressure to relax laws prohibiting the drug grows across Europe.
The course aims to give its participants experience working in Haarlem's coffee shops serving hashish and marijuana, testing and grading the wares. It also provides information on the unique Dutch experience regulating 900 licensed coffee shops.
Seated on plastic chairs in rows of desks in the back-room of the "Willie Wortels" coffee shop -- festooned with tiny lights and covered in cartoon rabbit murals -- some participants smoked cannabis, filling the air with the aroma of sweet smoke.
"I'm here because I want to open a Dutch style coffee shop in England," said Chris Baldwin, a long-haired 52-year-old veteran British campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis.
"The best part for me is the cannabis because I love it. I have been involved in cannabis for over 30 years... I would say somebody who is a connoisseur of wine is no different to me and my world of cannabis really. Where's the difference?"
Willie Wortels regulars looked on from the alcohol-free bar, casually smoking cannabis by the pinball machine and pool tables as its owner Nol van Schaik asked the course participants to sniff or smoke lumps of brown hash resin in an adjoining room.
"You break the hash open and look inside," van Schaik told his class after the intoxicating resin and leaves were handed out to the class in small cellophane bags sporting the logo of a small green cannabis leaf.
DREAMS GO UP IN SMOKE
Successful graduates can look forward to a lucrative life if Dutch coffeeshops are any measure of what awaits them if cannabis is legalised in theirown countries.
The Dutch shops on average generate an annual turnover of about 400,000 euros ($349,300) a year. Those near the borders with Germany and Belgium rake in as much in just a month.
"We are like any ordinary business in Holland. Taxes are being paid, staff are being employed and paid for. We are paying our bills through banks. Our money is accepted everywhere," van Schaik said.
Some of the dozen British, French and Swiss participants rolled and smoked joints as they received handouts for their course books on coffee shop history, regulations, security and health while examining resin and leaves under microscopes.
"It makes it look like a mountain range you could climb inside and explore," one participant said gazing at a dark brown piece of hashish resin under a microscope on a table covered with metal ashtrays and cigarette papers.
"Bit of lemon (scent) in it?" one man asks the teacher, sniffing at a mud-coloured strip of hashish in a class made up predominantly of visitors from the United Kingdom.
The British government said last year it wanted to ease the laws on cannabis by no longer making possession of the drug an arrestable offence and allowing its use for medical purposes.
This was followed by revelations that Britain's Prince Harry, second son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, had smoked cannabis and drunk heavily last year. The news briefly catapulted the issue to the top of the British political agenda.
The question of decriminalisation has also been accompanied by a debate about the medical use of cannabis. Canada became the first country in the world to allow people suffering from chronic illness to legally use and grow the drug last year.
"I'm a medicinal cannabis user. I've got multiple sclerosis (MS). I use cannabis to combat all the terrible effects that come from MS. It works very well for me and everyone else I know," a British woman taking part in the course said.
"Ill people don't want to be traipsing the streets looking for a dealer so coming somewhere like this (coffee shop) would be perfect. I think it is the sensible way to go," she said.
After testing and selling cannabis, learning how to roll joints with a machine and hearing about cultivation methods from Morocco to Afghanistan, the participants are to round off the course with a field trip to some of Amsterdam's 200 coffee shops on Friday.
The class will also sit a multiple-choice test featuring questions such as:
"When should outdoor marijuana plants be put into the ground?" and "Do male plants flower earlier or later than female marijuana plants."
Participant Jerry Ham was keen to learn so he can set up a coffee shop and medical cannabis distribution network in Britain when the legal environment makes it possible.
"I will need business plans and will need products to sell. This is about coffee shop management. I'm finding this to be invaluable," the 35-year-old from Brighton, England said.
UK: Cannabis cafe opens on south coast
The BBC, Monday 01 Apr 2002
A controversial cannabis cafe has opened in Boscombe near Bournemouth.
Its owner Jimmy Ward wants the law changed to allow him to sell organic marijuana over the counter in a Dutch-style cafe.
He hopes the new venture in Dorset, which is operating as a members-only venue, will help the cause of campaigners calling for the legalisation of cannabis.
Dorset Police have warned they will not tolerate any illegal behaviour at the premises, such as the sale of drugs.
Mr Ward said he was pleased at the number of visitors present when he opened at 1000 BST on Monday.
Mr Ward said he was not worried by police concerns about the cafe.
He said: "Every time the police get involved all they do is make me more determined."
Some customers had come from Stockport, Greater Manchester, where a similar cafe opened six months ago, but there were also local people at the opening.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Letch, of Dorset Police, said: " We are monitoring developments.
"When and if offences are apparent we will deal with them appropriately."
Home Secretary David Blunkett has indicated that although he wants to reclassify cannabis he does not intend to legalise or decriminalise it.
Cannabis possession and supply is set to remain a criminal offence, attracting maximum sentences of five years for supply and two years for possession.
But rather than arresting people caught with cannabis, police will be more likely to issue a warning, a caution or a court summons.
Police let second 'cannabis cafe' open
Hamida Ghafour, The Telegraph, Tuesday 02 Apr 2002
BRITAIN'S second cannabis cafe opened yesterday near a drug rehabilitation centre and with little interference from police.
The Dutch Experience in Bournemouth, Dorset, opened its doors to the strains of the popular song "Because I Got High", six months after the first cannabis cafe opened in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
The latest opening follows the more relaxed attitude of police to cannabis possession in Lambeth, south London.
By lunchtime yesterday, business seemed brisk and the former warehouse close to the Clouds Structured Day Treatment Programme, a drug rehabilitation centre, was full of people openly rolling and smoking cannabis joints. Jimmy Ward, 29, the owner, said he was abiding by the law.
Although patrons, some of whom are multiple sclerosis sufferers, are free to smoke cannabis in the members' room, no other drugs are permitted and no one under 18 will be admitted.
Cannabis cafe champion
Worthing Herald, Friday 12 Apr 2002
LEGALISE marijuana campaigner Chris Baldwin has completed a course on how to open a cannabis cafe .
Mr Baldwin, East Worthing and Shoreham Legalise Cannabis Alliance candidate in the last general election, travelled to Haarlem, Holland, for some unusual training.
In November last year, the campaigner announced plans to open Worthing's first Amsterdam-style coffeeshop, as part of his ongoing protest against laws restricting cannabis's use.
The training scheme covered the political and social implications of cannabis laws, customer service, business skills and quality control. The latter involved checking for microscopic particles on cannabis samples.
Now back in Worthing, Mr Baldwin said: "In Holland, a 'koffie' sign means a place sells actual coffee. If it says 'coffeeshop' all one word it's a cannabisshop.
"The difference is because they are not allowed to advertise. I've been thinking about changing it slightly. To commemorate the Dutch model, we should call cannabis cafes koffieshops, as a standard for all British shops."
Mr Baldwin, who has been arrested several times for possession of cannabis, now sports a small bag of marijuana around his neck everywhere he goes.
His koffieshop plans follow Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposed relaxation of cannabis laws and determined efforts to keep open a cannabis cafe in Stockport, Manchester.
"We studied the business side of coffeeshops, we had to do the political stuff and two hours of serving tea and coffee and drinks," said Mr Baldwin. "The highlight of the week was when I sat behind a counter serving up cannabis.
"We also covered the product itself; evaluation, hash-making and pressing."
Talking about the economic significance of cannabis laws, Mr Baldwin said: "A lot of people are gaining useful employment from cannabis.
"Its trade in Holland is not a 'tuppenny ha'penny' thing.
We've learned a lot about how to go about this in a political and social manner.This is not just about selling cannabis; it's more than that. It's not an entrepreneur money-making scheme. It's about bringing political and social reform this is about the removal of a totally unjust law."
Police inspector Allan Lowe said: "Once again, smoking of cannabis is illegal and we will enforce the law. If a cannabis cafe was to open, anyone smoking cannabis on the premises would be taken into custody.
"If anyone is permitting drug-taking on their premises, I think I can say we would consider other offences available to us. We can't sit back and let it happen, no matter what people's personal views are."
Dope cafe king was bank robber
Anthony Browne in Haarlem, The Observer, Sunday 14 Apr 2002
Dutch former body-building coach masterminding Britain's cannabis cafes is laid back about his colourful past
The mastermind behind Britain's booming cannabis cafe movement was a bank-robbing, drug-smuggling former international body-builder who is a fugitive from French police and is threatened with extradition from several European countries, The Observer can reveal.
Nol van Schaik, a millionaire entrepreneur from the Netherlands, who has helped finance the first two cannabis cafes in Britain, spent four years in prison for robbing a bank and is wanted in France and Belgium on drugs charges.
Motivated by the example of earlier Dutch cannabis activists, who changed the law there by repeatedly testing it, he is dedicated to changing British law. Having helped set up places where people smoke cannabis, he vows to sell it openly in Britain.
'I want to erase denial and hypocrisy. The law is crumbling in Britain, and I promised I would carry on testing the law until it is changed,' he said as he rolled a joint in his cannabis museum in Holland.
Van Schaik, who coached the Dutch body-building team and still ripples with muscles, is co-founder of the Dutch Experience, which became Britain's first cannabis cafe, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, last September.
It has opened every day since, despite being raided by police four times and despite his business partner, Colin Davies, a disabled man who uses cannabis for medical reasons, being remanded in Strangeways. Van Schaik also lent money and furniture to the Dutch Experience 2, Britain's second coffee shop, which opened in Bournemouth a fortnight ago.
The entrepreneur, who owns three coffee shops in Haarlem in Holland, has started courses training Britons to run their own cannabis cafes. More than a dozen are planned.
He owns the largest cannabis museum in the world, the Global Hemp Museum in Haarlem and promises to open one in Edinburgh.
While coach of the national team, Van Schaik owned a gym, but suffered severefinancial problems and went bankrupt six times. 'I was a body-builder, not a book-keeper,' he said. 'I thought robbing a bank would pay off my debts, but Iended up in jail for four years.'
Fifteen years after the crime, he now plays it down: 'I didn't hold the gun,I only held the bag to put the money in. And nothing happened to the staff. They got a fright, but no one was hurt.'
He and his accomplice got away with 15,000, but were caught and sentenced to four years in gaol.
Within a fortnight of leaving prison, friends asked him to modify a camper van to hide 400kg of hash from Morocco. On the way back, they were caught by the French border police.
'I didn't want to get arrested again,' he said. 'I head-butted one and I heard them shoot at me. But I escaped through a building site and into a ravine, where they didn't follow me. I hid in a truck and got a trip back to Holland.'
He is still a fugitive from French police, and liable to be extradited if he goes to Belgium or Germany. However, he is free to travel to Britain, which will not extradite him.
He has been arrested twice in Stockport, and is awaiting trial on charges of importation and possession of cannabis. 'If they want to put a Dutch coffee shop owner in prison for smoking a joint twice in the UK, that would not look good. '
Thirty years after cannabis activists got the law changed in Holland, coffeeshops are no longer contentious, and Van Schaik insists the British have nothing to worry about: 'I don't promote the use of cannabis; I promote the responsible use of cannabis. We don't play loud music because people want to talk rather than dance, and they don't fight. In Haarlem, we have no complaints about coffee shops and 8,000 complaints a year about bars.'
The Government intends to lower cannabis from a class B to a class C drug, meaning it is still illegal, but carries smaller punishments for possession. Van Schaik insists it is not enough.
'Class C is not liberty - it's being done to make it easier for police and politicians, but you leave supply in the hands of criminals. Even British MPs say you must also legalise the supply of drugs - and what is that but a coffeeshop?'
No prosecution after cannabis cafe arrest
The News & Star, Carlisle, Wednesday 17 Apr 2002
CANNABIS crusader Lezley Gibson will not be prosecuted for possessing the drug despite being caught red-handed in an illegal Dutch-style cafe.
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Ms Gibson was locked up for four hours after being caught in a raid at the Dutch Experience in Stockport last January.
She has waited 14 weeks to hear if she would be hauled before the courts. The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided not to press ahead with charges, the News & Star can reveal.
Ms Gibson, from Alston, said: "I hope this will make things easier for other medicinal users."
The move comes less than two years after a jury refused to convict 38-year-old Ms Gibson of possession of cannabis on the grounds that it was the only drug that could ease her MS symptoms
MS cannabis user's fury at new charge
Claire Tolley, The Daily Post (Liverpool), Wednesday 17 Apr 2002
A MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer who was fined £25 for cannabis possession after a trial costing £10,000 was last night heading back to Crown Court.
Robert Gartside yesterday indicated he would plead not guilty before Liverpool magistrates to a second offence of possession of the Class B drug.
Mr Gartside, 34, said he would exercise his right to a jury trial to highlight the "ridiculous" laws concerning cannabis possession - meaning thousands of pounds will be spent prosecuting him again.
Last night, after the hearing by Liverpool magistrates, he said: "I have been using for 10 years on medicinal grounds, and I am going to continue to use it because it's obviously working.
"I have been told from some people involved in the clinical trials being run by the Government that cannabis is doing wonders for the symptoms of MS. The arrest doesn't make sense because the police are screaming in the Press that they don't have enough resources to fight crime and yet I was arrested by three police officers in a van, even though I am disabled and have no history of violence. I realise opting for jury trial will cost money but by arresting me and choosing to prosecute me this is already costing a lot of public money for no point.
I am choosing jury trial because I believe I have more chance of having a fair hearing and am confident I will be acquitted."
At yesterday's hearing he was granted unconditional bail and the case was adjourned until June.
Officers allegedly discovered two blocks of cannabis resin when they searched him after stopping his car on Aigburth Road, Aigburth, south Liverpool, near to his home.
Police had a warrant for his arrest relating to a charge of possession of the drug dating back to last year. Mr Gartside, who lives in Aigburth Road, was held in cells at Wavertree Road police station over Monday night.
Some campaigners for a change in the law on cannabis believe police time could be better spent than arresting people who use the drug for medicinal use.
Two months ago, Mr Gartside was fined only £25 and given a conditional discharge by a Judge after being found guilty of cannabis possession by a Liverpool Crown Court jury.
Campaigner Chris Davies MEP said: "I think the people of Merseyside all want to know why it's appropriate to prosecute an ill man instead of using valuable resources and police time to go and catch drunken thugs, violent criminals and muggers."
Clinical trials are currently being conducted by the Government to test the effectiveness of cannabis sprays on the symptoms suffered by people with MS.
Last month, an official report by the Government's medical advisors paved the way for the reclassification of cannabis to a Class C drug, saying it posed smaller health risks than other Class B drugs.
But last night a spokeswoman for Merseyside Police defended the arrest.
She said: "Robert Gartside was arrested and charged as a result of a warrant issued by Liverpool City Magistrates after he breached his bail conditions.
"The focus of Merseyside Police in respect of drug matters is on the activity of suppliers, importers and dealers in drugs. Possession of cannabis remains an offence and the police officers who encounter such offences will continue to act in accordance with their duty to uphold the law and arrest those who commit such offences.
Until such time as the Government and the courts complete their review of the law in relation to cannabis, which may result in a change in legislation, our responsibility and our duty will remain unchanged."
Second cafe set to open for smokers of cannabis
The Daily Post (Liverpool), Saturday 20 Apr 2002
A SECOND Dutch-style coffee shop is to compete for Liverpool's cannabis-smoking clientele.
The cafe will rival the city's first proposed coffee shop which is set to open in May.
The new plans are the brainchild of Liverpudlian Jimmy Ward, the man behind a Bournemouth coffee shop opened in a blaze of publicity at Easter.
Like Dutch Experience 2 on the south coast, the Liverpool coffee shop will not sell the Class B drug.
Instead, it will act as a venue for cannabis smokers to meet and smoke in a communal atmosphere.
Premises have already been found by Mr Ward's business partner in Liverpool and work is due to start on the coffee shop within weeks. Asked if he anticipated any action from police, Mr Ward, 30, who used to run a transport company, said: "I don't think Merseyside Police will bother, they have enough trouble with Class A drugs.
"The idea of setting up in the open is to challenge the law. We want a licence to sell marijuana because then we can break the link between it and hard drugs.
"There are two Dutch Experience coffee shops that everyone talks about, but there are hundreds of them hidden away."
However, the father-of-six refused to reveal the name of his business partner until the shop was opened, to prevent it being discovered and raided by police.
Such problems beset the preparation of Bournemouth's Dutch Experience 2, which will be chronicled on BBC2's Money Programme next Wednesday.
Mr Ward added: "They came and raided us before we opened and arrested me for conspiracy to to incite people to smoke marijuana, but we haven't been raided once since we opened.
"The premises for the Liverpool coffee shop are like this one, a converted old warehouse. And this place is earning money already."
Both the Bournemouth cafe and a shop in Stockport are co-owned by Nol van Schaik, the Dutch multimillionaire entrepreneur and former international bodybuilder.
Largely credited with starting Britain's booming coffee shop craze, he spent four years in jail for bank robbery and is still wanted by French police for drug smuggling.
His Stockport business partner Colin Davies, a disabled man who uses cannabis for medicinal reasons, has been on remand in Strangeways Prison for several months.
Meanwhile, as exclusively revealed in the Daily Post in February, Liverpool's first coffee shop is set to open next month.
The bar owner behind it, who already owns three venues in the city, recently attended van Schaik's Canabuziness course in Holland.
"The Liverpool bar owner came on the course," said Mr van Schaik. "He has his financing pretty much finished and he is ready for talks with the police."
A Merseyside Police spokesman said: "We cannot comment on speculation that a cannabis cafe is to be opened in Liverpool. However, we can confirm possession of cannabis is an arrestable offence."
UK: 13 million Britons have taken drugs
Reuters, Sunday 21 Apr 2002
An ICM poll for the Observer newspaper said 51 percent of the nation's 16 to 24-year-olds had taken banned drugs, while five million people regularly used cannabis, and more than two million regularly took ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine.
Britain tops the European tables in problem and casual drug users according to figures from the European Monitoring Centre of Drugs and Drug Addiction. A government survey last year found almost a third of young people had used cannabis, but Sunday's findings suggest drug use is even more widespread than previously thought.
"We are not surprised. The threat of criminal sanctions is simply not stopping large numbers of young people experimenting with drugs," Roger Howard, chief executive of charity Drugscope, told the Observer.
The issue of drugs has become a hot political topic in Britain in recent months. In January it was revealed that 17-year-old Prince Harry, younger son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, had smoked cannabis with school friends.
That followed the introduction of a pilot scheme in south London, which sees officers overlooking cannabis users and concentrating instead on dealers in more destructive hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. The experiment, which began last July, has been heralded as a success.
Last October the government announced it would reassess its traditional tough line on drugs. Home Secretary David Blunkett said he intended to relax the law on cannabis by making possession no longer an arrestable offence.
Some senior politicians and Britain's former chief inspector of prisons have even called for some, if not all, drugs to be legalised and made available on prescription.
The ICM poll was based on a survey carried out in February and March of 1,075 people aged over 16.
Bournemouth Police Raid The Cannabis Cafe
Dorset Police, Press Release, Thursday 25 Apr 2002
Bournemouth police have executed a warrant at the cannabis cafe under the Misuse of Drugs Act on Wednesday evening, 24th April, 2002.
Police officers entered the cafe in Station Approach, Boscombe, at 7.40 pm. There were twenty five people inside the premises at the time of the raid, seven of whom were arrested for drug-related offences.
Sixty officers were involved in the operation including search-trained officers and a dog handler. Only some of the sixty officers entered the building. A quantity of substances, believed to be cannabis, was recovered from the cafe.
Chief Inspector Nick Hazelton commanded the operation and said: "I am pleased with the results of the operation. Once again, it shows Dorset Police's intention to deal appropriately with offences at this enterprise. We are here to uphold the law and will continue to do so."
Those arrested were:
1. A 17 year old Bournemouth youth since released on police bail.
2. An 18 year old Bournemouth man since released on police bail.
3. A 21 year old Bournemouth woman since released on police bail.
4. A 28 year old Bournemouth man reported for an offence and since
5. A 30 year old Bournemouth man assisting with our enquiries.
6. A 34 year old Bournemouth man charged and bailed to Bournemouth
Magistrates Court on 29th April, 2002.
7. A 47 year old Christchurch man since released on police bail.
Detective Chief Inspector Colin Stanger, head of Dorset Police's specialist squads, said: "The operation was a success and reinforces what I said previously. Dorset Police targets dealers and users in the more harmful Class A drugs like heroin and crack cocaine but clearly we will not tolerate the dealing in and use of cannabis because it is an offence and our duty is to enforce the law."
Note to Editors;
Detective Chief Inspector Colin Stanger can be contacted on 01202 226145. Issued by the Press Office, Headquarters, 01202 / 01305 223893. Visit our website at www.dorset.police.uk
Drugs swoop as cafe on TV
Dorset Echo, Thursday 25 Apr 2002
BOURNEMOUTH'S "cannabis coffee shop" was raided last night as the Boscombe site featured on prime time TV.
Seven people were arrested for drug-related offences and a quantity of substances, believed to be cannabis, were seized.
Police officers attended the cafe in Station Approach, Boscombe, at 7.30pm - just as BBC2's Money Programme was highlighting the issue of cannabis cafes, focusing on the Bournemouth venture.
The coffee shop is run by James Ward.
The 30-minute documentary followed Mr Ward to Amsterdam where he underwenta cannabis cafe management course.
And the programme also highlighted his search for premises in Bournemouth. Chief Inspector Nick Hazelton of Bournemouth police said at 7.30pm yesterday the police executed a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act. "Twenty-five persons were in the premises, seven were arrested for drug-related offences," he added.
Uppers and downers of UK's Dutch Experience
Anthony Browne, The Observer, Sunday 28 Apr 2002
Until 15 September last year, it had only been famous for its hat museum.
But on that day, Stockport, on the outskirts of Manchester, suddenly featured in news stories around the world: in a quiet industrial area, Britain's first cannabis cafe, the Dutch Experience, had opened. It was raided by police on its first day, but supporters immediately reopened it.
Seven months later, it has been raided four times but has remained open every day. Cannabis campaigners - including two MEPs - marched on Stockport police station carrying cannabis, and demanding to be arrested. After 28 arrests, the police gave up, ignored anyone else possessing the drug, and campaigners declared that it had in effect been legalised. The Dutch Experience continues to attract hundreds of people from across the country every day, but its co-founder Colin Davis has been remanded in Strangeways Prison since December for breaking bail conditions on drugs charges.
The Dutch Experience has inspired other cannabis activists to open coffeeshops in a planned programme of civil disobedience that effectively forced a change of law in Holland thirty years earlier. Many have taken a special 'Cannabizziness' course set up by the Dutch co-founder of the second British cannabis cafe. The Dutch Experience 2 opened earlier this month in Bournemouth, and has been raided twice by police but immediately reopened each time. More than a dozen other cannabis cafes are planned, in Brighton, Liverpool, London and Edinburgh and elsewhere.
UK: Scotland's First Cannabis Cafe Set To Open
Shan Ross, The Herald, Glasgow, Friday 03 May 2002
SCOTLAND'S first cannabis cafe could be open for business next month, one of the owners of the controversial enterprise told The Herald last night.
Kevin Williamson, founder of the Rebel Inc publishing firm, posted details of the new Rebel Inc Coffeeshop planned for "the heart of Edinburgh" on his website yesterday afternoon.
On it, he describes how the members-only establishment will eventually sell cannabis direct to customers as a means of cutting out the adulterated supplies in the city's deprived areas.
The cafe's "menu" will offer at least eight different types of cannabis with discounts being given to those with medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis or glaucoma.
Mr Williamson, who is drugs spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party, said he had the support of a number of MSPs and MPs for his new venture.
He said an announcement on the reclassification of cannabis from a class B to a Class C drug is expected next month. Reclassification would mean that, although suppliers would face a prison sentence, those in possession of the drug would not be arrested. He said: "When the announcement is made we will open once we have decorated our new premises. Obviously I am aware that there is the threat of a five-year prison sentence for selling Class C drugs.
"I wouldn't be happy to end up in prison, but the main issue here is tackling the overlapping problems between heroin and cannabis. It is very different to be a young professional buying cannabis from a decent source than being someone in a housing scheme coming into contact
with criminals who are likely to be mixing it with all sorts of rubbish."
Mr Williamson said he would not be "springing" the cafe on Edinburgh but intended organising a number of events to inform the public about the cafe's aims.
A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders police said last night it had no communication from Mr Williamson. "But as the law stands our officers would arrest anyone possessing or dealing cannabis," she said.
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said last night: "The deputy first minister has said re-classification does not mean decriminalisation. Cannabis will remain a controlled drug with criminal sanctions."
Cannabis Campaigners March On City
Manchester Evening News, Sunday 05 May 2002
MORE than 200 people marched through Manchester to protest against the imprisonment of the man behind the city's first Dutch-style marijuana cafe.
The campaigners openly smoked the drug in front of around a dozen mounted police officers who patrolled the demonstration.
The protest was in support of Colin Davies, who has been in custody awaiting trial on drugs charges since November last year, after he opened the Dutch Experience in Stockport in September. Mr Davies' trial is due to begin on June 24.
The march, on Saturday, tied in with Global Cannabis Action Day, which calls for legalisation of the drug.
Protest Goes To Pot
BBC News, Monday 06 May 2002
The organiser of yesterday's 'Legalise cannabis' march through Hull city centre says he was disappointed with the turnout.
An estimated 300 people joined the demonstration, which led from Queen's Gardens, near Hull's main police station to Pearson Park.
Although many of the marchers openly smoked Cannabis, the watching police didn't make any arrests.
Carl Wagner, who's behind the demo, had estimated that a thousand people would turn up, when in reality, it was nowhere near that number of people. He said: "I think it went very well. I'm a little disappointed with the numbers, more from the point of view from the people who are missing.
The people who should be here, the people who claim they are environmentalists. Cannabis legalisation affects everybody."
Carl Wagner is also the owner of Divine Herb, a stall in Hull's indoor market selling a range of hemp products from pasta to candles.
BBCi Humber's Christine Demsteader has been to the market to find outmore about the stall and it's owner, who also wants to open Hull's first 'cannabis cafe'.
Freedom hope for cannabis cafe boss
Manchester Evening News, Friday 17 May 2002
CANNABIS cafe owner Colin Davies will hear today if he is to be released from prison.
The Stockport campaigner has been behind bars since November when he was refused bail after being charged with possession and importation of cannabis.
He opened the Dutch Experience, the UK's first Amsterdam-style "coffeeshop" in September as part of his campaign to help those with debilitating illnesses get access to cannabis.
Colin set up the Medical Marijuana Co-Operative after he found it helped him when he suffered a serious back injury.
It was thought the campaigner would have to stay in prison until his trial, which is set to begin on June 24.
But in a dramatic turnaround, Judge Peter Fish at Minshull Street Crown Court said there had been a "significant change in circumstance".
The judge was today hearing a bail application on Colin's behalf in private. It is thought Colin, 44, has a good chance of being released because he has now been imprisoned in Strangeways for six months.
Colin's solicitor Chris Hinett said the move was "highly unusual" as previous bail applications had been refused.
"The judge felt there was a substantial change in circumstance and we are feeling very hopeful for today's hearing," Mr Hinett, of Stockport law firm Henry & Co, said.
The Dutch Experience, based at Hooper Street in Stockport, has been the subject of a number of high-profile police raids.
This week - on Colin's instructions from his prison cell – customers have been told they can no longer purchase cannabis on the premises. The small bar area at the front of the shop will remain open for softdrinks and snacks.
Cannabis campaigner released from jail
Stockport Express, Friday 17 May 2002
CANNABIS campaigner Colin Davies has been released from jail on bail.
The campaigner, who is charged with a number of cannabis-related matters as part of his involvement with the Reddish-based Dutch Experience cafe, has been on remand at Strangeways Prison for nearly six months while awaiting trial.
But following a hearing at Minshull Street Crown Court on Friday, Mr Davies has been released on bail. Conditions of his bail involve him not entering Stockport and not discussing the case publicly.
On the court steps, Mr Davies said: "I feel great to be out - I can't believe I've been ostracised from my home town. I want to see my children and I would like to get a nice egg and bacon
sandwich or something."
Mr Davies had been sent to Stangeways Prison on November 20 last year before his release on bail.
Drugs 'In Every UK School'
Jo Dillon, Political Correspondent, Independent on Sunday, 26 May 2002
Every school in Britain has a drugs problem, according to two leading headteachers' unions.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Headteachers' Association, said yesterday: "Any school that doesn't think it has a drugs problem doesn't know its children."
Peter Walker, adviser on drugs to the National Association of Headteachers, said: "You show me a head teacher that says they haven't got a drug problem and I will show you a liar. I mean infant schools, primary schools and secondary schools."
Mr Walker said the levels of drug taking inside schools was fairly low, arguing that most young people experimented either at home or at the homes of friends. And he said that many youngsters believed drug taking was "selfish" and had begun to display remarkably mature attitudes about the issue.
However, he admitted there were young people in schools who developed drugs problems or dealt drugs, advocating exclusion for the dealers so other "innocent" children were not sucked into drug use.
In Mr Dunford's view, however, the problem was more widespread.
"There isn't a town in the country now where the children will be able to tell you where you can obtain drugs or for how much in graphic detail - and I am talking about nice kids," he said.
"I think schools do an awful lot of work on drugs education which makes a considerable impact. The problem would be much worse without that."
Both said drugs education should start in primary schools, calling for more help for teachers in getting the anti-drugs message across.
The Department for Education and Skills yesterday dismissed the allegations. "What evidence is there that every school has got a drugs problem?" a spokesman said. "Most schools don't have a drugs problem. There are some that do and that is why we are taking steps to help teachers
educate people better and why we are cracking down on drug dealing in and around schools."
But Mr Dunford also warned that there could also be future problems in schools because of recent moves to liberalise the laws on cannabis.
"I think young people are aware that there is a more liberal attitude on the part of the police to cannabis possession. But I think it's too early to say if that change of attitude will have an impact," he said.
According to previously unpublished research by Life Education Centres, a drug prevention charity whose patron is Prince Charles, more children now believed cannabis was "safe".
UK: Crime falls in cannabis trial area
The BBC, Wednesday 29 May 2002
The south London borough which is piloting a scheme to treat cannabis offenders more leniently has seen a dramatic drop in the level of street crimes.
The number of robberies and muggings in Lambeth has halved in the last six months, and the latest figures for this month show the trend is continuing.
Police have stemmed the rate of increase in the number of street crimes right across London.
But the drop in Lambeth is considerable, according to figures released on Wednesday.
There were 468 robberies and muggings in the Lambeth area last month, compared with 916 in October. So far this year, robbery is down by 18% - the highest street crime reduction in London.
Police say the use of traffic officers on robbery patrols and operations targeted at known suspects have helped bring about the reduction.
Senior officers also acknowledge the contribution by the borough's former Commander Brian Paddick, who was removed from his post in March.
His scheme, to warn those caught in possession of cannabis rather than arrest them, was part of a plan enabling police to focus on street crime.
Detective Superintendent Jim Webster, crime manager for Lambeth Police, told BBC News Online that putting an extra 40 officers into the area had played a key part in crime reduction.
He said "it would not be useful" to comment on any role the cannabis scheme may have played in the reduction of crime, while a "serious study" was looking at this issue.
"We are prioritising the areas that local people hold to be vital, such as street crime and drug dealing," he said.”There are some 450 fewer people per month becoming victims of street
robbery now as compared to six months ago. This the result of concentrated effort from many agencies within the borough.”
"There is a massive saving of resources achieved by this reduction in crime."
Police said successful initiatives included the use of robbery response cars operating six days per week between 1600 and 0200 BST Monday to Saturday.
Police, working with Lambeth housing department, have also been targeting convicted youngsters and teenagers suspected of involvement in crime.
Their parents are being visited and in some cases they have been warned that their children's behaviour could lead to their eviction.
Police have also concentrated on a number of Tube stations to carry out crime prevention and have installed surveillance cameras at key crime hotspots.
UK: Cannabis cafe visit for police
The BBC, Thursday 06 Jun 2002
North Wales Police drugs squad officers have travelled to Amsterdam to find out how their Dutch counterparts deal with the issue of drugs possession.
The move comes as a businessman plans to open a Dutch-style cannabis cafe in Rhyl.
Force chief constable Richard Brunstrom earlier called for a fresh debate on the drugs laws, but has also vowed to close down the proposed cafe.
Despite Home Office proposals to reclassify cannabis as a class C - rather than class B - drug in the UK, Dutch laws are even more liberal.
Cannabis can be bought in many coffee shops in Amsterdam, where possession of the drug for personal use has been tolerated for years.
Speaking on the fact-finding mission in Amsterdam North Wales Police Sergeant, Dewi Roberts, said: "It is very complicated what they are doing here. It is not legal as such but it is tolerated by police and if any of the conditions of the licence are broken they are punished quite heavily."
It is estimated the Dutch capital is home to more than 250 coffee shops, with some also to be found in smaller towns and cities.
Senior police officers in Amsterdam believe the coffee shop system works, allowing them to concentrate their efforts on tackling hard drugs.
However, the new centre-right Dutch Government has expressed unease about the country's reputation as a haven for drug users.
Conversely, police in the UK have been relaxing their attitude to those in possession of small amounts of cannabis.
A pilot scheme has been carried out in Lambeth, south London, where people found in possession of small amounts of cannabis were cautioned rather than arrested.
Mr Brunstrom has gone further, suggesting the legalisation of drugs in recognition of the impossibility of enforcing their prohibition.
However, he has insisted he remains obliged to enforce the law as it stands.
Mr Brunstrom said: "Using premises to supply drugs is a serious offence and we will have to deal with that."
While the UK authorities contemplate a more lenient approach to drug use, flagrant breaches of the existing laws are not being tolerated.
In May, a row broke out after a businessman set up a website bearing the name of North Wales Police to advertise his plans for a cannabis cafe in Rhyl.
Jeff Ditchfield, 42, from Henllan in Denbighshire, said he bought the domain name - for £12.99 to try to open a "sensible debate with police".
Senior officers warned him not to use the site for illegal means and said they would act if the law was broken.
Police have already raided two Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes which opened in Stockport, Greater Manchester, and Bournemouth, Dorset.
But despite a number of arrests, both premises remain open.
Pro-drugs campaigners say they are the first of 13 cannabis cafes they plan to open nationwide.
In addition to the shop planned for Rhyl, another is proposed for Anglesey, North Wales.
Ciaran Fagan, Leicester Mercury, Friday 14 Jun 2002
Campaigners want a cannabis cafe to open in Leicester, but would it be a drugs den or a harmless leisure facility? Ciaran Fagan went to the UK's first cannabis cafe to find out what the locals say
The air is heavy with the pungent aroma of cannabis as Kate rolls up the latest in a long, long line of fat, loose joints. The 23-year-old law school graduate is extolling the virtues of the Dutch "cannabiscafe" culture over a mug of coffee.
But we're not sitting in one of Amsterdam's famed hostelries where smoking cannabis is tolerated.
We're in Stockport. Well-to-do Stockport, just outside Manchester. And if pro-weed campaigners get their way next month, people in Leicester will be rolling joints over a latte in similar fashion.
Even Stockport's tourist information centre in the town – accustomed to taking calls about the town's famous hat museum - will tell you how to get there.
At present, the Dutch Experience is an over-18s, members-only affair decked out in the style of an Amsterdam cafe.
Smokers sit supping coffee and chatting amiably about different weeds. Board games and table football are popular diversions. But smoking is the main order of the day. Cannabis is not on sale - although that is the ultimate aim of campaigners across the country - but coffee and Kit Kats are.
Kate, who is from nearby Cheadle, said: "It's such a relaxing place because weed and violence do not mix. The worst thing that can happen if you have too much in my experience is that you fall asleep. The police aren't doing anything apart from the odd undercover visit. In fact, I can't think of a better way of wasting money than trying to close places like this down."
The cafe is tucked away in a small parade of shops within a two minute walk of the town centre. And it was doing good business on Tuesday afternoon.
It's been a bumpy ride so far for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance -pioneers of Britain's first stab at establishing a cafe culture with a dash of easy-going Amsterdam.
The Stockport cafe - now known as Dutch Experience I after a second venture opened in Bournemouth - opened in a blaze of publicity in September.
A gaggle of press watched as officers from Greater Manchester police stormed in, searched customers and arrested owner Colin Davies.
Mr Davies, who says he is helping to provide cannabis to people because of the medicinal properties he and others believe it possesses, is to appear in court next month to face charges of
allowing the Class B drug to be smoked in his cafe.
Police in the town insist that they would raid the cafe if they had evidence that cannabis was being smoked there.
But, apart from rumours of undercover surveillance operations, business has gone on, apparently unhindered by police for at least six months.
Bart, 30, from Holland who is helping to run the Stockport cafe, said:
"The reaction of 95 per cent of the people I speak to is supportive of what we're doing here - but then again a lot of the people who don't agree with what we're doing probably wouldn't talk to me."
He says he smokes both because he enjoys cannabis and for medicinal reasons - he has severe arthritis in his leg. When 30-year-old Tom Robertson underwent bone graft surgery a few years ago, he was left inexcruciating pain.
Now he takes a cocktail of pain-killers every day but comes to the Dutch Experience for a little extra pain relief.
"I don't feel like a criminal but I'm breaking the law here," he said. "For me it's simple, how can it be justifiable to withhold something that is a medicine for so many people?"
Outside on the streets of Stockport, opinions were pretty much evenlydivided about the cannabis cafe. Another (mainstream) cafe owner, who asked not to be named, said: "It's a nonsense the police allowed it to open in the first place, it's having an adverse effect on Stockport's reputation. People who sell drugs will start hanging around places like this - without the owners' knowledge maybe - and you'll get harder things than cannabis being sold.
"And who's there to keep an eye on it all?"
Young mum Lisa Ashraf, 19, said: "I'm against all drugs and this sends out all the wrong messages. I'm bringing my son up to say no to all drugs and how am I supposed to do that when there's a place in the middle of town where people are openly smoking weed?"
Barbara Hewitt, 49 of Wythenshawe in Manchester said: "I've read about this place in the local papers and I'd agree that people should be allowed to smoke cannabis like this if it's for medicinal reasons - the pain of some illnesses can be unbearable."
Greater Manchester police insist they will act if they have evidence that people are smoking cannabis in the Dutch Experience. A spokeswoman said: "As far as we're concerned, it's open as a coffeeshop only and we're keeping an eye on it. As the law stands, it's illegal to possess or smoke cannabis so if we find people doing this we will enforce the law."
Future Cannabis Cafe Ready
The Worthing Herald, Thursday 04 Jul 2002
The back room of the Bong Chuffa shop, in Rowlands Road,Worthing, is being converted into a cafe by campaigners anticipating legalisation of the class B drug.
Chris Baldwin, East Worthing Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) candidate in the last general election, is at the heart of the project.
"We're building a coffee shop here for the future when the laws change we will have everything in place," said Chris. "Once we've got it built out the back, you can call that my folly. I can theme my back room any way I like. It would be a working coffee shop, ready in place. Police can come down and have a look. What we are selling in the store is completely legal. If we're not selling it, someone else will. We are not exclusive in the world."
Chris, who went to Amsterdam in April for a course on how to run a cannabis cafe, featured in a number of Herald stories following Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposed relaxation of cannabis laws.
"The LCA in Worthing actually stayed quiet for a while," said Chris. "We had done all the interviews, said everything we were going to say and people were asking when will we open a coffee shop? Well, we're doing it now. The biggest enquiries so far have been whether
we have got any cannabis to sell. Of course, we say 'No'."
Talking about the store, he said: "Bong Chuffa is about the campaign and about us. Obviously we have to make money to eat and pay the rent, but it's not about making money, it's a community project. All the work that's been done has been done by friends for free.
"The coffee shop itself, in my opinion, is democracy. It will win the day.
Democracy is the will of the people. Those who are against legalisation better speak up now because so many are speaking for it."
Colin Davies in jail again
Pete Brady, Cannabis Culture, Canada, Wednesday 03 Jul 2002
Manchester police re-arrest Dutch Experience founder
When medpot patient Colin Davies emerged from England's Strangeways Prison in May after serving six months for opening the country's first official marijuana shop, he felt like Rip Van Winkle waking from a long slumber.
While Colin was locked away, enduring agony, starvation and frustration, Dutchman Nol Van Schaik and other Dutch potpeople, British medpot patients and advocates, members of the European Parliament, cannagoddess Maruska De Blaauw, and many other courageous folks were working hard to keep Colin's potshop dream alive.
The Dutch Experience, founded by Davies and Van Schaik during that horrible week last September when the world changed forever, is still open, despite the "best" efforts of police in Stockport and Manchester, England.
Van Schaik, De Blaauw, politicians, and at least four dozen other people have voluntarily gotten themselves arrested during the protests concerning Colin's arrest and imprisonment.
De Blaauw reports visiting the local police station with her pot-toking friends, lighting joints, and
giving the constables a taste of smoky green medicine. Most of those arrested have demanded jury trials.
Davies says he had tears in his eyes when he was released in May, pending trial on cannabis
distribution charges, and was finally able to see and hear first hand about the local, national and
international efforts that kept The Dutch Experience open.
He was amazed and pleased to see reports that British Home Secretary David Blunkett and Parliament are almost certain to reclassify cannabis to make it a non-arrestable "Class C" offense by mid-July. He smiled when he heard that other patients and advocates, empowered by The Dutch Experience, were creating a cannabis revolution throughout the British Isles, with "legalization" experiments successfully proposed or taking place in London, Scotland and
And yet, somebody forgot to tell the Manchester police and prosecutors that England has terrorists and real criminals to worry about.
They must have been watching Colin when he "violated" his release conditions by being in his own home in Stockport. The release conditions were handed down by the judge who released Colin in May, fearing that Colin would go right back to selling herb and hashish at The Dutch Experience. The judge had imposed home exile on Colin as a condition of release.
But Colin's spinal injury medical condition caused him to visit a hospital on June 30, seeking a dose of opiate pain killers. The dose left him shaky, and he was unable to do any more than collapse in his own home.
Police rousted him the next morning, and also arrested Dutchman Big Bart, formerly a contender for the Dutch National Soccer Team, for possession of marijuana.
Colin was remanded into custody for breaking his bail conditions, but a judge later ruled that he could leave jail, provided he complied with the conditions of his May release.
Prosecutors grinned malevolently as Colin left the courtroom, and then had him re-arrested. Some of his supporters protested, and two of them were arrested when nearly two dozen riot police descended on them like bullies always do.
Now Colin Davies is sleeping in a harsh cell in the Stockport Police Station, wondering if he will spend his entire summer in prison awaiting a trial that was supposed to happen in June but is now scheduled for September.
"It makes you wonder who is in charge of marijuana policy in England," commented Van Schaik, who was once dragged out of his UK hotel room in the middle of the night by KGB-imitating police agents who feared that his sticky Dutch bud might be some potent new form of superweed. "I mean, the world is on high alert about terrorists, and there are plenty of other problems that need the government's attention in England, and the government is set to loosen its cannabis policies,
but the Stockport police, the prosecutors, and the judges are spending their time harassing a disabled man who has done absolutely nothing wrong. If they were more interested in helping people than in hurting them, they'd give Colin an award and let him help the government design cannabis outlets across the country and throughout Europe."
High hopes at the cannabis cafe
Russell Jenkins, The Times, Thursday 11 Jul 2002
BOB MARLEY'S voice blares from the speakers and the air is thick with marijuana smoke as a teenager called Dibbz lights up another joint.
The regular customers at The Dutch Experience, Britain's first cannabis cafe, are celebrating David Blunkett's move to decriminalise cannabis with a toke of home-grown 'super skunk'.
Few believe they are about to be embraced by 'straight society', but most are convinced that it is a step towards the kind of social acceptance they have been campaigning for.
The smokers, an ill-assorted bunch who include ageing MS sufferers, younger professionals, a few teenage drifters, even a man in a suit and tie, hope it will put an end to the police raids that have punctuated the cafe's brief history. It was opened in September last year by Colin Davies, 45, a long-term sufferer of back pain and founder of the Medical Marijuana Co-operative, as part of a campaign to make marijuana available for therapeutic use to ease the pain of arthritis and MS.
The cafe, tucked away in an unfashionable arcade several hundred yards from the main shopping centre in Stockport, was raided by police on its opening day. Posters on the cafe windows cry: 'Free the Weed 4 Those in Need!' Altogether, Greater Manchester Police have brought charges against 29 cafe staff and customers, including several resulting from demonstrations.
These days the only items sold over the counter are coffee and sweet snacks. Jeff Ditchfield, who plans to set up his own cannabis cafe, Beggar's Belief, in Rhyl, said the cafe was being run according to the rules laid down by its founder; no under-18s, no alcohol and no drugs other than cannabis. Asked whether cannabis could be bought or sold on the premises, he replied: 'I don't see any, do you?' Peter, 38, a project manager and Norwegian national who lives in Salford, has taken time off work to pop into the cafe. 'How could I not, with all the good news coming from Blunkett?' he said. 'It is obviously a step in the right direction although, of course, not enough.'
He talks passionately and articulately for full legalisation as an alternative way to relax other than alcohol. Legal cannabis cafes would take the business away from dealers, who have a vested interest in pushing heavier drugs, he says.
Smokers or 'stoners' are functioning people, he says, often at the higher end of the social spectrum. One cannabis smoker, aged 40, with long dark hair, is rolling a one-leaf joint with tobacco and super skunk. He has rheumatoid arthritis and chooses cannabis above other painkilling drugs.
'It is a positive move,' he says of Mr Blunkett's initiative. 'At least it is a start after such a long period of absolute ignorance. This is a plus, plus, plus for the smoking community.'
The cafe's neighbours report few problems spilling on to the streets. Norman Collins, 45, who runs Heaven Hairdressing next door, said he had seen no evidence of drug dealing or drug abuse in the vicinity. 'If anything, it has novelty value for my clients,' he said.
Q - Can I Get Away With Smoking Dope, Officer?
News of the World, Sunday 14 Jul 2002
Q: CAN I GET AWAY WITH SMOKING DOPE, OFFICER?
A: ONLY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, SIR
BAFFLED police across the country haven't a clue how to enforce David Blunkett's flagship new initiative on cannabis. This week our reporters nationwide, posing as concerned members of the public, popped into police stations or asked bobbies on the beat for advice on where we might smoke a spliff, and if so, how much dope could we have on us. Could we, perhaps, have a dope party? The answers we got ranged from confused to hilarious to plain wrong. One beat bobby told a reporter to nip across the road into another borough to smoke a joint that's them in the big pictures on this page. Just for the record, under Blunkett's plan cannabis is to be
reclassified as a Class C drug in the same category as anti-depressants. People caught smoking cannabis in the street will effectively be let off with a caution. Right now, cannabis use is still an arrestable offence. The softening of the law will take effect in London by August and nationwide by October. Police will retain arrest powers in situations of 'aggravating cirumstance'. But that's a huge grey area/ While cannabis suppliers will be arrested, there's no clear guidance on what amount of the drug constitutes 'personal use'. And this is the mess that police understandably found themselves in when we called by...
POLICE officers argued amongst themselves. some threw up their hands in despair, others simply admitted they were totally flummoxed. All because we asked them politely to explain the new cannabis laws that, in the coming months, they will have to interpret and police. One beat bobby in London's Southwark gave up completely and told our reporter to cross to the other side of the roadjust across the border with the borough of Lambeth where there is already a pilot scheme in which attitudes to cannabis have been softened.
Our investigation started outside Westcombe Park police station in the London borough of Greenwich: "I'm having a party this weekend and some friends are likely to bring some cannabis around," said our reporter. "Could we get arrested?" "No," said the constable. "Enjoy your party, and enjoy your cannabis! If you're buying it, you do not commit an offence."
Officer in a parked police car in London's Southwark, in answer to the 'party' question: "When the law gets changed, it'll be all right. By the way, where's the party?" But a Southwark police station desk officer, asked the same question, said: "Cannabis is illegal. You'll get arrested for any amount. Even if an officer is walking past and catches you smoking alone at home in your pants, you'll get done. When the law changes, you'll still get arrested." PC guarding the entrance to Houses of Parliament: "Go to Lambeth if you want to smoke cannabis!"
PCs Irvine and Turner, on patrol in Southwark, were the most confused cops
Irvine: "Cannabis is going to remain illegal until July next year."
Reporter: "So it'll be all right next year?"
Irvine: "No, no, it will always be illegal!" Turner: "In Brixton, you'd
only get a caution, but that's in Brixton. But you can smoke it."
Irvine: "No you can't!" Turner: It depends on how much you carry."
Irvine: "No, it doesn't matter how much you carry! If you've got enough on
you, you'll get 14 years in jail, or life in jail.
Turner: "Yeah, it doesn't matter how much you've got, it's depends how you've got it packed up. If you've got six different packs of cannabis, then we'll be like, 'You're supplying' and you'll get done."
Irvine: "No! No! If you've only got one bag, you're still not all right. No...you're getting the wrong impression. You'll go to prison." Well and truly confused, our reporter in the area turned to PC 648 Alan Male, on patrol in Southwark, and asked if he could light up a spliff in the street.
"I don't really know the details of these laws," he said. "Look, we're on the border with Lambeth, if you walk down this road here, one side is Southwark and the other is Lambeth. You can jump across the road and be all right." Outside Sainsbury's in London's Camden, another PC was equally uncertain. "All Blunkett has done is fudge the issue," he said. "He hasn't made it legal or illegal."
But confusion isn't confined to London. Midlands bobbies were just as puzzled. First a female reporter went into Worcester police station with the 'party' question.
"It's only in London that the law is being relaxed," said a woman desk officer. At Steelhouse Lane nick in Birmingham, our girl posed as someone just back from working in Holland with its famous relaxed drugs laws. "Is Britain like Holland now?" she asked.
The desk sergeant said: "If I was to catch you with a small amount of cannabis on you I would take it off you but not arrest you. If anyone thinks they will be able to walk along the street smoking a joint they're sadly mistaken."
"But could I light up in a restaurant after a meal?" asked our girl. The sergeant said: "It's going to get to the stage that where you are allowed to smoke, you'll be allowed to smoke cannabis. But we haven't got there yet." So how much could we have for personal use?
"If you had two small blocks for yourself and your boyfriend I'd confiscate them. But if you had 16 blocks for a party then I'd arrest you for supplying. "Until they actually clarify it we can only act on experience. It's confusing for us too."
But in Bedford, the police officer we met was adamant. "It's still illegal. The laws haven't been changed. Tell your friends it's still an arrestable offence."
Our reporter asked: "Aren't there any specific amounts that will be safe for them to carry around?"
The policeman put his foor down. "It will be an arrestable offence even when they downgrade it," he said.
"It's illegal whatever the amount they carry around with them. And if it happens on your property you'll be held responsible for it." In Manchester, a reporter headed for Chorlton police station, just a few miles south of the city centre. He also tried the 'I'm having a party' line. A WPC at the front desk said: "I don't know what class drug it is being downgraded to. If people are smoking it, they will probably be cautioned." Then she smiled: "Where's the party-can we come?"
In Manchester's Didsbury, however, our man came up against a brick wall when he asked for general advice on the new guidelines. "I've not heard anything about them," said a WPC in charge of the front desk. "What did they say on the news?"
Across the country at Newcastle North headquarters a WPC ushered our man into a confidential briefing room for a wide-ranging piece of advice.
"Nothing has changed at all yet," she said. "They're going to change the classification of cannabis to a Class C drug."I can't really say how much will be regarded as 'personal use'a gram or
more than a gram. If someone is found with some in their pocket and they say 'I'm going to
have a reefer and it's just for me and I'll smoke the rest tomorrow...'
It's all down to the circumstances we find you with it and what you say it's for." When our reporter posed the 'I'm having a party' question, the WPC warned: "You could technically be liable for allowing your premises to be used for the purposes of drug-taking. It applies to any controlled drug you could be liable. "They haven't decriminalised cannabis yet but the understanding I have is we will be more lenient as far as possession for personal use is concerned but you'll be hammered more than you are now for possession with intent to supply. "The bottom line is that probably the safest place to use cannabis is in your own home. It's just the carrying of it between wherever you're getting it from and home that's dodgy.
"Don't ever use it in public thinking it's all right because, as yet, it isn't." Back down south, in Swindon, officers were also wrestling with the facts. In answer to the 'party' question, a constable sitting in a police car outside the station said: "That law doesn't come into force until July
next year. So it's going to be a good party then?"
When our girl asked if he could help with the legal position of Ecstasy, too, he laughed: "You'll have to give us your address so we know where to come for these parties."
In Cardiff Central police station, the police were also in difficulties. Asked for advice, an officer admitted: "We don't know. We know as much you, as much as we've seen on the telly."
Still, our reporter pressed on. "Could I light up in the street?" he asked.
"Don't know," said the officer. "People in government do things, discuss things amongst themselves. We'll probably be the last to know." But as the reporter left the station, the policeman gave a piece of advice that should serve everyone: "Tread carefully."
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