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UK: I'm Mandela not Al Capone, my cannabis speakeasy helps the sick

John Simpson

The Times

Saturday 11 Aug 2018

Alcohol, however, is strictly off the menu at Britain’s growing number of cannabis clubs and cafés.

A former office building in Middlesbrough houses the Teesside Cannabis Club, which is among the most open of a network of members’ clubs providing safe spaces for recreational and medical cannabis use. It is part of a close-knit network of collectives founded by Greg de Hoedt, from Crawley, West Sussex.

Mr de Hoedt, who uses cannabis to combat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, has been a full-time campaigner for nearly a decade and his stated aim is to open a cannabis club in every county in Britain. He rejects any comparison between his own speakeasies and those of the US prohibition era.

“Al Capone was going around shooting people to make money out of alcohol,” he said. “He wasn’t worried about the quality of it, he didn’t care about the lives he was damaging.

“I care about the lives of the people I’m helping, getting them a better quality of life, whether it’s getting them off heroin or helping to ease their pain and giving them a better quality of life.

“If Al Capone did that, then compare me to him. I would rather be compared to a freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela. I’m fighting for people’s rights.”

Mr de Hoedt, 30, is privately employed by firms with interests in a “green rush” as seen of the US, and estimates that as many as 160 collectives exist in the UK.

“I would hope that they wouldn’t just raid us,” Mr Fisher said. “We liaise with police, we are that open and that out there. My members work for a living, own their own businesses, some are bank managers, some are healthcare workers.”




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