We’ve all been there: a quick pack of a bag, a long search for your passport, and your one cheap flight – plus £50 for printing out the boarding pass you forgot – away from enjoying the delights of a tolerant Dutch cannabis policy. It certainly is a rite of passage for most weed enthusiasts.
Going to Holland and getting high in a regulated cannabis café is highly beneficial and not just because you won’t get hassle off the police. You can get reliable information about the product you are buying (hello informed decision about what you’re consuming), you don’t have to put yourself in a compromising or dangerous position just to score some weed, and you’ll never be pressured into buying hard drugs. It’s just a much more all-round palatable experience.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just rock up to a similar establishment, without having to endure painfully expensive junk food and terrifying near misses with trams/bicycles, at home? ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, I hear you cry, ‘that’s not happening while the archaic Misuse of Drugs Act is in force’. But that’s not true, there have been cannabis ‘coffeeshops’ over here. Not because we have ever had a rational drug policy – perish the thought – but because some mavericks have decided they’re going to flout the law to make a point.
Having a tendency to gravitate towards these sorts of characters, I reached out to Chris Baldwin who opened Worthing’s first Dutch-style coffeeshop Quantum Leaf back in June 2002. Chris is an unrelenting veteran of the cannabis activism scene. “In 1969 I sent cannabis to the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, in the 70’s I joined the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, and in 2001 I joined the Legalize Cannabis Alliance and stood for parliament,” he told me earlier this week.
Just over five months, two police raids, and a court case later the shop was forced to shut due to mounting pressure from the council. I wanted to find out exactly what it’s like to open a cannabis café in a country where, um, it’s just not the done thing.
“I went to rallies and protests; I lobbied MPs and wrote letters, all sorts. But in the end it just got to the point where I thought that the only thing left to do now is to open up a coffeeshop and challenge society. I wanted to prove that cannabis doesn’t harm society.
“We had a glass-fronted menu on the wall with bags of weed and hash in and a dealer’s booth. We basically opened the coffeeshop to get busted. It was for political not financial gain.
“It was a very nice place to go; we had quite a lot of disabled customers who said that they didn’t feel safe going into pubs but they felt very safe going into our coffeeshop. We contributed towards the Christmas lights in the town and on Christmas Day we opened the coffeeshop up to the homeless. We gave them hot tea, coffee, cakes, there were bowls of weed on the tables, and when they left I gave them all a £10 bag of weed. We tried to give the money back to the community as often as we could.
“I was trying to get other people to open shops because when they busted me they had to get outside forces in to help them. So I figured if we had five coffeeshops in Worthing – and a union where we all helped each other – there’s no way they could have busted us all. We would’ve won through eventually. That’s how it became tolerated in Holland.”
Tim Farron calls for legalization of cannabis for recreational use
Lib Dem is first main party leader to propose decriminalization of drug for recreational use ahead of expert report on ‘legal cannabis market’
Tim Farron is to become the first leader of one of Britain’s main political parties to call for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use after declaring that the war on drugs is over.
In one of the most significant moves by the Liberal Democrats since they were reduced to a shell of just eight MPs at the election, Farron will call on the government to develop a framework for the legal regulation of cannabis.
Farron is to endorse a motion at spring conference which calls on the party to extend its existing support for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use to recreational use.
The motion, to be tabled by the former health minister Norman Lamb, will be debated after the release of the findings of an expert panel appointed by the Lib Dems to examine how a legal market for the use of cannabis would work in the UK. The panel has found that the legal use of cannabis could save the exchequer more than £1bn a year. It could generate between £400m-£900m in tax revenues and could save £200m-£300m in the criminal justice system.
The Lib Dem leader said: “The Liberal Democrats will be releasing a report in due course that lays out the case for a legalized market for sales of cannabis. I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health.
“The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”
Farron and Lamb, the two rivals for the Lib Dem leadership after Nick Clegg stood down when the party lost 49 of its 57 MPs, showed that they wanted to act in a radical way when they appointed the expert panel last October. The panel, whose members included the former chairman of the government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, Prof David Nutt, was charged with examining how a legal market for cannabis could work in Britain.
The panel looked at evidence from Colorado and Washington State where the use of cannabis has been legal since 2012. Its work has also been backed by Lord Paddick, the Lib Dem peer and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, who led a pilot scheme in Lambeth which effectively decriminalized cannabis for personal use over a 12-month period.
Farron’s remarks about the prime minister are a reference to his support as a young MP for a report by the Commons home affairs select committee, of which he was a member. This called for the prescribing of heroin and the provision of safe injecting rooms.
The future prime minister, who said that the lives of friends and people close to him had been ruined by drugs, told MPs in December 2002: “When I first heard about the concept of safe injecting rooms, I hated it. I thought the concept of the state providing a room for someone to inject something into their veins awful, but I listened to the arguments … People who live in inner-city areas whose children have to step over drug paraphernalia in the streets and on housing estates deserve a break from heroin use in their communities. That takes me back to the point that safe injecting rooms at least get heroin users to a place where they can be contacted by the treatment agencies so that the work of trying to get them off drugs can start.”
Source: The Guardian