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UK: Three held as cannabis cafe opens

Evening Times, Glasgow

Friday 30 Jan 2004


Three people were arrested for drugs offences at Scotland's first cannabis cafe

Two men and a woman were held for possession of the drug at the Purple Haze Cafe and their arrests coincided with the reclassification of cannabis, from Class B to Class C.

It was understood Paul Stewart, the owner of the cafe in Leith, Edinburgh, was one of those arrested.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "Three people have been charged with possession of drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Two people were seen using drugs within the premises."

The spokesman said the men, aged 43 and 37, and the woman, 35, would be reported to the procurator-fiscal.

Police had warned they would maintain a presence outside the cafe and that customers could be arrested if they were seen with any illegal substances.

Following the three arrests the police left.

The cannabis cafe, a former "greasy spoon", launched as a private members' club yesterday afternoon and said people would be able to come in off the streets and use the soft drug.

The launch was attended by Glasgow MSP Tommy Sheridan and South of Scotland list MSP Rosemary Byrne, both of the Scottish Socialist Party, who said they wanted to show "solidarity" with those who choose to use cannabis.

Mr Sheridan spent over half an hour drinking tea in the cafe and registering as a member.

But police warned that despite the downgrading, the drug remained illegal and the possession of cannabis was still an offence.

Purple Haze owner Paul Stewart said members would have to bring their own cannabis to the cafe because the drug would not be on sale.

Mr Stewart, 37, said the cafe would be "tobacco free" but anyone wishing to take cannabis would be able to use a vaporiser machine, which eliminates 99% of the carcinogenic substances of the drug.

He said he wanted to highlight the discrepancy between Scotland and the rest of the UK over how the reclassification was implemented, adding he
would have to warn all his customers they risked being arrested.

He said: "In the rest of the UK the presumption of arrest has been taken away, but that presumption remains in Scotland.

"It is a fact 800,000 people use cannabis in Scotland and we feel we are being socially excluded from taking part in an activity we believe is socially acceptable."

A statement issued at the cafe by police read: "The change in class only impacts on the penalties available to the courts and does not alter police procedures.

"Where evidence of an offence exists offenders will continue to be charged and reported to the fiscal."




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