Cannabis café owner spared bill of £113,000 – Chris Baldwin
Source: The Argus, UK
Pub Date: Friday 16 July 2004
Subj: Cannabis café owner spared bill of £113,000
Author: Huw Borland
A jalied cannabis café owner walked from court without having to pay a £100,000 bill.
Christopher Baldwin, 53, was accused of making making thousands of pounds from his illegal venture.
He had already served six weeks in prison for his involvement in the Amsterdam-style Quantum Leaf café in Worthing.
But new laws meant he was faced with paying back any money he made from the business. Original estimates were that this could be £113,000.
However, Chichester Crown Court heard it was unclear after examining the café's accounts what profit had been made. Francis Lloyd, prosecuting, said the figure could have been about £78,222 but there were too many gaps in the café's accounts.
Baldwin, who campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis, had told an earlier hearing that the Quantum Leaf, in Rowlands Road, was run as a political statement and had left him in debt.
The court agreed a confiscation order of £8,508 should be made, a sum which had already been seized by police during raids at the café.
Baldwin, who suffers from spastic paraplegia and needs crutches to walk, did not have to pay any more.
Outside court, Baldwin said: "I'm not a big tough guy or a big bad criminal.
"Some take attending court in their stride but it has been pretty stressful.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome. Justice has been done because I did not make any money from the café - it was done for political reasons."
Quantum Leaf was in the back room of a smoking accessories shop called Bongchuffa.
Police raided it on November 27, 2002, weeks after Baldwin publicly announced he was opening the café.
Officers estimated £2,000-worth of cannabis and more than £4,000 in cash was seized in the raid.
The figures swelled as Worthing police mounted an intensive six-month operation to stop blatant cannabis dealing.
Baldwin was eventually jailed at Chichester Crown Court on January 9 after pleading guilty to allowing cannabis to be used at a premises and having cannabis with intent to supply.
Dozens of cannabis campaigners had attended each hearing, staging noisy and colourful protests.
Baldwin said: "I have no regrets about what I did but I do apologise for any inconvenience to Worthing.
"People are allowed to drink alcohol, which can cause a lot of social harm.
"If you look at the Dutch coffee shop system, police get called to bars, not coffee shops.
"We showed people that it could work here too. The only time police went to the Quantum Leaf was to raid it, not to sort out any problems."
Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield, Worthing district police commander, said the café was not a political statement but organised criminal activity making thousands of pounds every week.
Quantum Leaf sold 13 types of marijuana, hash cakes, ready-rolled joints, sandwiches and soft drinks.
Baldwin has said he uses cannabis to counter the leg spasms he suffers as a result of his disability.