UKP113k shock for cannabis cafe owner
Source: The Argus, Worthing, UK
Pub Date: Friday 2 July 2004
Subj: UKP113k shock for cannabis cafe owner
Author: Huw Borland
Jailed cannabis cafe owner Christopher Baldwin could face a UKP113,000 bill.
He has already served six weeks in prison for his involvement in the Amsterdam-style Quantum Leaf cafe in Worthing.
But new laws mean he could be forced to pay back any money he made from the business.
Police say tens of thousands of pounds were made in the venture.
However, Baldwin, 53, who campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis, said the Quantum Leaf, in Rowlands Road, Worthing, was run as a political statement and left him in debt.
He will appear at Chichester Crown Court on July 15, when a judge will decide how much, if anything, the campaigner should be fined.
Baldwin lives with his carer, Trevor Scott, in a two-bedroom council bungalow in Carnegie Close, Worthing.
He said: "The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says I owe about UKP130,000. I wish we had it.
"The figure is pure conjecture. They probably watched the cafe when it was open and counted how many customers went in.
"But the shop was not busy for the first five months until it was busted. Then it really took off because of the publicity.
"Not everyone who came bought two or three bags of weed. Some would buy a ready-rolled joint for UKP2 or a hash cake for UKP1.50."
Police recovered hundreds of pounds in cash and large amounts of marijuana during raids at the cafe in 2002 and 2003.
Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield said the Quantum Leaf and another cafe in Brougham Road, East Worthing, were earning thousands of pounds every week and were devoid of any political stance.
But Baldwin said: "The money the police took off me was owed to the people who gave us the cannabis.
"I did not have the money to buy the cannabis. I found people who believed in what I was doing and were prepared to supply cannabis up front so I could pay later.
"In the last bust the police found UKP8,000 but that money was to pay people and should never have gone to the cafe.
"It left me in a lot of debt. I have lots of overdue credit card payments and they are foreclosing on me.
"I also have council tax bills left over from the cafes."
Baldwin was jailed at Chichester Crown Court on January 9 after pleading guilty to allowing cannabis to be used and having cannabis with intent to supply.
CPS spokesman Paul Hayward said the application to fine Baldwin was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act, introduced last year, which empowers courts to seize the assets of someone who has been convicted of a crime.