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UK: If you were thinking of opening a cannabis cafe - let this be
Sarah Chapman and Mike Hornby
Tuesday 25 Apr 2006
THE jailing of a Liverpool cannabis cafe owner should serve as a warning
to others, police said today.
Officers welcomed the 12-month term handed to Gary Youds who had opened
an Amsterdam-style cafe in Holt Road, Kensington, last year.
Superintendent Chris Armitt of Merseyside police said: "Mr Youds has
flagrantly broken the law and despite repeated warnings and
intervention, engaged in acts that could bring harm to the local
community, and he has been sentenced accordingly.
"We don't condone drug taking or law breaking in any way and will always
act when matters of this nature are brought to our attention."
But those who live close to the Chill-in' Rooms said they were surprised
by Mr Youds' sentence..
Enid Bristow, of the Needham Road residents association, was one of a
group of locals invited to tour the cafe shortly after it opened.
Mrs Bristow said today: "It's sad for Gary, I wouldn't wish any harm on
"I was impressed when I went round the cafe. It was very nicely
decorated, just like a wine bar."
Robert Maloney, who lives on Holt Road, said: "There wasn't so much as a
peep from that place when it was open.
"I suppose the police had no choice but to shut it down.
"They can't pick and choose which laws to enforce."
Campaigners for reform of the drugs laws say last year's
re-classification of the drug, from B to C, had caused confusion among
the public about what can and cannot be done.
Katy Swaine, head of legal services for the drugs advice charity
Release, said: "There has never been a decriminalisation of cannabis but
there is now a presumption against arrest.
"People do underestimate the seriousness of cannabis possession but I
can see where this confusion may have come from."
Steve Rolles, information officer for Transform Drug Policy Foundation,
said: "When re-classification happened a clutch of cannabis cafes opened
around the country.
"Some continued to stay open for a while, such as the one in Liverpool
because the police were pragmatic about them.
"Shutting these places down isn't really in the police's interest
because it takes their resources and has no effect on cannabis use."
THE Chillin' Rooms opened in March last year and was soon attracting
Liverpool crown court was told yesterday that police raided the premises
twice in a month. Each time officers noticed the air was thick with the
smell and smoke of cannabis and there were several people inside the cafe.
Users of the cafe were cautioned for smoking the drug and Youds was
Raids on his semi-detached house in Cavan Road, Norris Green, revealed
bags of cannabis and cannabis plants, and cuttings were growing in an
The 36-year-old pleaded guilty to two charges of permitting the use of
his premises to be used for smoking cannabis.
He has a previous conviction from last year for the same offence and he
was conditionally discharged, the court heard.
He also admitted cultivating cannabis, producing cannabis, possession of
the drug, and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.
Youds pleaded guilty to possessing a stun gun, the prosecution accepted
his explanation that he was minding it for someone else.
CANNABIS was downgraded from class B to a class C drug in January 2004.
Many people believe that effectively made it legal because possession of
class C drugs is not an arrestable offence.
But the law was changed to make cannabis an exception to the rule,
leaving police with guidelines for arrest of those in possession or
thought to be growing or selling the drug.
A number of people living in the Midlands have been granted immunity
from the law as they are part of government study into the health
qualities of cannabis.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Our position is that cannabis is an
illegal and harmful drug.
"The object of re-classifying it was to reflect changing police
priorities and allow them to focus on class A drugs such as heroin and
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