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UK: Cannabis cafe hit by eviction threat

Jane Hamilton, Crime Reporter

Edinburgh Evening News

Saturday 31 Jan 2004


SCOTLAND'S first cannabis cafe faces being closed down after its landlord
threatened to take legal action to stop the city venue being used for drug

The businessman who owns the Purple Haze cafe in Leith has told cafe
operator Paul Stewart he will be evicted unless he stops his controversial

William Frame, managing director of city-based Braemore Property
Management, has consulted his solicitor about the new use of the former
greasy spoon in Portland Street.

The cannabis cafe opened on Thursday afternoon as a private members' club
for anyone who wishes to come off the streets and use the drug.

Mr Stewart said the cafe would be "tobacco free" but anyone wishing to take
cannabis after 4pm would be able to use a vaporiser machine, which
eliminates 99 per cent of the carcinogenic substances of the drug.

Police moved in on Thursday night and arrested three people, including Mr
Stewart, for drug offences.

The move to open the cafe came on the day the drug was officially
reclassified from Class B to Class C by the Government.

Today, a spokeswoman for Mr Frame said: "William Frame has owned the
property at Portland Place, Leith, for 12 years.

"The property operated as a cafe for 12 years, until the current tenant,
Paul Stewart, took over the lease two years ago.

"Cannabis is illegal and Mr Frame does not condone the use of the drug or
the actions that have been taken by his tenant.

"Mr Frame has advised Paul Stewart that he is in breach of his lease and if
he continues to do so, Mr Frame will take legal action.

"Mr Frame is co-operating fully with Lothian and Borders Police and a copy
of the letter issued to Paul Stewart by his solicitors has been forwarded
to them."

Pro-cannabis campaigners - backed by the Scottish Cannabis Coffeeshop
Movement - want to highlight what they say is a confusing legal situation
surrounding the possession and use of the drug. Scottish Socialist Party
MSPs Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne also signed up to become members of
the cafe. Mr Sheridan called the cafe a "safe controlled environment for
those who wish to consume cannabis".

More than 100 people turned up to support the opening, but it was
overshadowed when two people, a man and a woman, were charged with drugs
possession by police. Mr Stewart was also charged for allowing people to
misuse drugs on the premises.

A police source said: "The landlord is definitely very unhappy with the
situation and has said he is looking at the conditions of the lease. It
could well be possible he might be looking to terminate it."

The cafe, which has been receiving e-mails from around the world from
people offering support and seeking membership information, opened as usual
yesterday morning.

Owner Paul Stewart said the day had passed quietly and he had shut up shop
at around 6.30pm, an earlier closure time which had already been agreed
with the police to avoid the expected influx of weekend revellers.

Meanwhile, Lothian and Borders Police today insisted it is "business as
usual" for the force.

A spokeswoman said: "The possession and supply of cannabis is illegal. It
is also illegal for the occupier or any person concerned in the management
of the premises to knowingly allow any person to smoke or supply cannabis."

She revealed police carried out drug operations in the city centre on
Thursday morning.

A 22-year-old man was reported to the procurator fiscal for dealing
offences after cannabis and other drugs-related paraphernalia were found in
a house in Portobello.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair has backed the
reclassification. He said policing of possession of small amounts of
cannabis had become "increasingly pointless".

He added: "It was grossly inefficient for officers to spend hours
processing individuals for possession of cannabis in amounts about which
neither the courts nor therefore the CPS (CRown Prosecution Service) were
prepared to take any action."




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