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UK: Vow To Open New City Centre Cannabis Cafe

Alan Roden

Edinburgh Evening News

Thursday 02 Sep 2004


A LEADING supporter of Scotland's first cannabis cafe today vowed a similar
outlet would be opened in the city centre.

Cult publisher and author Kevin Williamson announced the move after
Edinburgh Sheriff Court fined the owner of Leith's Purple Haze Cafe UKP 500
for allowing the drug to be smoked on the premises.

Paul Stewart, who operated the cafe, yesterday admitted permitting cannabis
use on the premises. The 37-year-old was arrested on January 29 - the night
he opened his Portland Place "private members' club" and the same day
cannabis was downgraded to a Class C drug.

But Mr Williamson, the Scottish Socialist Party's drugs spokesman and
founder of the Scottish Cannabis Coffeeshops Movement, today said the UKP
500 fine was a "token slap on the wrist".

"I'm pleased Paul didn't receive a custodial sentence. A small fine of UKP
500 shows what a waste of police time and court time this was. This entire
case has been a joke from start to finish but it is not going to put anyone
off opening a new cannabis cafe. Our ultimate aim is to get cannabis out of
the black market and what we are doing is morally right. I can say for
certain that supporters will get together and discuss ways to open another
cafe and this time it will be right in the middle of Edinburgh city centre."

The Purple Haze opened in a blaze of publicity earlier this year, and
members who paid UKP 5 to join the club were promised they would be able to
use the drug on the premises - despite police warnings that it would be
illegal. MSP Tommy Sheridan signed up to become a member of the cafe, which
drew more than 100 people to its opening. But the cafe was raided just
three hours after it opened and Stewart was arrested.

The Purple Haze was subsequently put on the market after just one month.
Stewart blamed "harassment" by the authorities for his decision to sell. In
April, Stewart pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed his plea
before yesterday's court appearance.

He said: "I'm quite upset about the severity of the fine, but I'm glad it
wasn't a custodial sentence. I decided to plead guilty to the charges
because I didn't want to waste any more taxpayers' money."

Procurator fiscal John Barclay told the court there was "a co-ordinated
police response" on the cafe's opening day: "The accused was seen at the
counter of the premises and could not have failed to see the bong and pipe
or also smell the distinctive aroma of cannabis."

When fining Stewart, Sheriff Noel McPartlin told him: "You are entitled to
your point of view whether it is a good law or a bad law, but you are not
entitled to campaign against it by breaking the law itself."

Defence agent Matthew Berlow said, his client was now "a broken man"
because of the adverse publicity.

Stewart claims to have invested UKP 45,000 in the business and is
considering offers over UKP 15,000 for the lease - which has about eight
years to run. Because he is living on a minimum income, he was allowed to
pay the fine at the rate of UKP 10 a week.




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