Chris's Story in His Own Words
Chichester Crown Court Report
Eddie Ellison's Statement
Other Personal Statements and Comments About Chris
Chris Baldwin, born 1950, suffered from severe crippling injury as a child, has shown the courage of a lion in his fight about the repressive cannabis prohibition laws in the UK.
For many years Chris used cannabis to ease the spasms in his legs that his injury caused, get a better nights sleep and ease the pain. Although he felt the law against cannabis and the punishment of users was totally unjust, he, like most of us, did little about changing it.
Then Chris came across a Legalise Cannabis Alliance flier at a Howard Marks gig in his area and realised that he was not alone, there was a serious political party that he could work with.
In 2001, Chris represented the LCA in the General Election, contesting Worthing East and Shoreham and gaining a very impressive 920 votes (2.1%) .
Wanting to more to help the cause, in particular to bring attention to both the general injustice of the law that punishes victimless cannabis users AND interferes with the supply of a highly effective medicinal plant, Chris decided to open a cannabis cafe in his home town, Worthing.
At the front of the premises in Rowlands Road which he leased, Chris opened a shop selling cannabis paraphernalia and magazines, behind which and through a monitored door he opened one of the UK's first cannabis cafes. The shop was called 'Bonchuffa' and the cafe was 'The Quantum Leaf'.
Already there had been two attempts at opening public cannabis cafes in England. The first, 'The Dutch Experience', was opened in Stockport and led to the eventual imprisonment of Colin Davies for three years. The second was "Dutch Experience II' opened in Bournemouth for Jimmy Ward. Jimmy eventually received a suspended sentence.
Yet Chris, on his crutches and through his own pain, pushed on with his plans and made no secret of it, voluntarily going to the police to discuss his venture.
The cafe was so successful that Chris opened a second place, Buddies, on the other side of Worthing.
He also set up The Herb Connection, a source of cannabis for those in urgent medical need.
The story continues through a series of police raids on both cafes. Bongchuffa was closed after the landlord withdrew the lease. Buddies was "voluntarily" shut down after police continued their presence outside, harassing customers and searching them.
Below is a series of newspaper articles, followed by a Court Report of the sentencing of Chris Baldwin to SIX MONTHS of agony in prison. The judge's comments about Chris - his description of him as an "honest" and "sincere" man with a genuine medical need and belief in the use of cannabis in treating pain - a man who was politically motivated, not financially - a man who ran the cafes responsibly - and the judge's "reluctance" that in the interests of law he was forced to give an immediate custodial sentence, demands questions be asked about the obvious conflict between law and justice.
Who will stand up and point the accusing finger at CHRIS? Only those paid by the state to do so.
Here is a statement made by Chris just before his court appearance:
The Cannabis Cafe Guru (Chris Baldwin):
Pre Sentencing Interview Wednesday 7th January 2004
Chris Baldwin opened Worthing's first Cannabis Cafe in June 2002, he later acquired a second Cafe, together they ran for over a year. His last cafe closed August? 2003.
CB: "The coffeeshop had three purposes;
"1: To push the political issue for legalisation.
"2: As a social experiment to prove that cannabis doesn't hurt society and there is a need for coffeeshops.
"3: To subsidise the medical supply to make medical cannabis affordable for patients."
Q: "What spurred the idea into action? "
CB: "Everything - I'd stood for parliament, written letters and articles, attended rallies, protests and meetings. We even went to Stockport to support the coffeeshop and got ourselves busted on purpose.
"The idea was finally spurred into action when I attended a 'coffeeshop course' in Holland. This was a five day course to teach people how to run a 'Dutch-style' coffeeshop. The course was set up and run by experts in the trade. "
Q: "Bongchuffa Headshop and Quantum Leaf Cannabis Cafe. Why the two names?"
CB: "Bongchuffa was the headshop. Quantum Leaf was the coffeeshop. I wanted to keep both entities separate. Bongchuffa didn't sell cannabis, only cannabis requisites which are completely legal.
"I thought if I kept them separate the law wouldn't be able to touch Bongchuffa. This didn't work, the Bongchuffa stock was all confiscated during a later raid. The police still have all my stock despite the fact that it's legal.
Q: "So the premises were intended as a political hub, was this with the support of the LCA?"
CB: "The LCA were not involved with the financing, setting up or the running of the coffeeshop but they were supportive of our political campaigning. We had LCA collection boxes on the counter so we donated money to them."
Q: "As a social experiment did the cannabis cafes work?"
CB: "Yes - In my opinion they did. Coffeeshops offer adults an alternative to alcohol, this can be valuable to recovering alcoholics.
"We also helped a couple of recovering heroin addicts to stay off the nasty stuff. We offered good quality cannabis instead of the rubbish that's often available.
"The popularity of the place proved there was a need for coffeeshops in Britain. "
Q: "When you say rubbish, what do you mean?"
CB: "Prohibition creates a situation where the product has no 'quality control', so as with alcohol prohibition in the 1920's in the USA. People are forced to buy and consume an inferior and sometimes dangerous product.
"In Britain the most common type of cannabis resin used is known as 'soapbar'. This is a type of hashish that has been adulterated with various nasty things, sometimes dangerous chemicals.
"This results in the ridiculous situation that a law created to protect people actually does them more harm than good.
Q: "These different varieties of cannabis, do they have different effects?"
CB: "Yes - We offered a variety of weeds and hashes.
"Some people like to smoke strong weed like 'Skunk', while others prefer something milder like 'Thai' or 'Swazi'. Some preferred hash to weed.
"Pub's offer a choice of drinks because that's what people want and the cannabis trade is no different."
Q:" So can different varieties help medical users in different ways?"
CB: "Yes, to a degree but it's more a case of some types of cannabis are better at dealing with pain and spasms."
Q: "How did you subsidise medical supply, what supply?"
CB:" We had been supplying medical cannabis about a year before the coffeeshop, our problem was the price.
"Cannabis is expensive and some patients just couldn't afford it so coffeeshop profits subsidised the medical supply.
"We actually sold medical cannabis for less than we paid for it, this was only possible with the coffeeshop continuing to run."
Q: "You attempted to set up a controlled environment with quality cannabis; did the criminal element of our society appreciate this?"
CB: "Some criminals like to smoke decent pot and some like to sell dodgy pot.
"We did receive threats from some 'soapbar' dealers but we were printing and giving away 'anti-soapbar' leaflets so I suppose we did annoy them a bit."
Q: "So you had threats from villains, you must've had pressure from the police as well?"
CB: "No, we had very little contact with the police in the beginning.
"Just after we opened two uniformed cops came in and had a look. There wasn't much going on at the time apart from Alan the artist was rolling a joint in the corner and a couple of bongs on a table so they went away, apparently happy."
Q: "You sound quite relaxed about it all now, but you were busted after 5 months, the pressure must have been intense?"
CB: "The pressure of not getting busted was massive.
"We opened day after day expecting the cops to turn up and bust us every day. When it finally happened it was quite a relief.
"It was what we fully expected to happen but we expected it sooner. What did the other shopkeepers and local inhabitants think, were you accused of lowering the neighborhood?
"Most of the other shopkeepers warmed to us straight away. We were polite, friendly and helpful but most of all we brought lots of people to the area and that meant more trade for them.
"Some didn't like us but we were doing something a bit radical, so there's bound to be some critics. As far as lowering the tone of the area, our shop was so beautifully painted that other shops started to get new coats of paint. I think we brightened up the area rather than lowering it."
Q: "What is the feeling amongst the founders of Quantum Leaf and Bongchuffa?"
CB: "Pride, we were all very proud of what we'd achieved.
"After a while the place was looking good and feeling good. It was working just the way we'd hoped."
Q: "Finally, would you do it again?"
CB: "Yes but not in the same way.
"We were a bit too open about what we were doing and I'm not sure society was ready for that sort of smack in the face.
"The smack in the face was totally intentional and necessary.
"Britain needs coffeeshops, I am convinced of that.
"Now it's just a matter of convincing the 'anti-cannabis' brigade.
"Attitudes to cannabis have changed massively in the last thirty years and this will continue. The 'anti-cannabis' brigade will one day go the same way as the dinosaurs.
"One thing I am certain of is that cannabis prohibition will one day be repealed."
HERE is a series of newspaper articles about Chris Baldwin and his cannabis cafes:
Cannabis Chris Has High Hopes In Poll: Worthing Herald, 3 March 2005
Cannabis Cafe Owner Spared Bill Of 113,000 UK Pounds: The Argus, 16 July 2004
UKP113k Shock For Cannabis Cafe Owner: The Argus, 2 July 2004
CANNABIS CAMPAIGNER FREED FROM JAIL: The Argus, Worthing, 26 February 2004
Tagged Cannabis Man To Be Freed: The Argus, Worthing, 18 February 2004
I Feel I'm Being Punished For Being Disabled: The Argus, Worthing, 10 February 2004
Protesters Cry: Free Jailed Cannabis Campaigner Chris: Worthing Herald, 22 January 2004
Royal Pardon Sought For Cannabis Cafe Owner, The Argus, 20 January 2004
Pain Relief and Prison, The Argus, 19 January 2004, letter about prison sentence
Commons Protest For Pot Cafe Owner: The Argus, 16 January 2004
It Should Have Been Ten Years: The Argus, 15 January 2004; letter about prison sentence
Law Before Justice: Letter: The Argus, Worthing, 14 January 2004
Editorial Comment on Worthing's Cannabis Cafes: The Argus, Worthing, 12 January 2004
Food Strike By Jail Protester: The Argus, Worthing, 12 January 2004
Crusade for Legal Drugs: The Argus, Worthing, 12 January 2004
PRO-CANNABIS TRADER JAILED, The Argus, Worthing, 10 January 2004
Drugs Cafe Case: The Times, 10 January 2004
Doorman Cleared In Drugs Trial: The Worthing Argus, 2 December 2003
Group's Support For Trio At Court: The Argus, Worthing, 29 November 2003
Police: We've Still Got The Cannabis Cafes In Our Sights: Worthing Today, 19 September 2003
MP Joins in Cannabis Row: The Argus, 29 August 2003
Split Over Party At Raid Cafe: The Argus, 26 June 2003
Judge Tells Offender 'Call It Quits': Worthing Herald, 15 May 2003
Police Pledge Cannabis Crackdown: Worthing Herald, 15 May 2003
Demo As Cannabis Four Face Charges: Worthing Herald, 3 April 2003
Campaigners Hold Demo For Trio On Drugs Charges: The Argus, 19 February 2003
Three Face Dope Cafe Charges: The Argus, 4 February 2003
High Noon For Cannabis Cafe: The Argus, 19 December 2002
My Son Chris: The Argus, 19 December 2002
Double Bust: The Argus, 18 December 2002
Pro Pot Demo At Court: The Argus, 12 December 2002
New Drugs Swoops At Cafes: The Argus, 12 December 2002
Cannabis Cafe May Face Charges (Worthing): The Argus, 4 December 2002
Cannabis Raid Boss Defiant: The Argus, 29 November 2002
Drug Squad Storms Cafe: The Argus, 28 November 2002
Future Cannabis Cafe Ready - Worthing: The Herald, 4 July 2002
Town Gets Pot Shop: The Argus, 2 July 2002
Cannabis Cafe Champion Chris Baldwin: Worthing Herald, 12 April 2002
Cannabis Smokers Arrested: The Argus, 26 November 2001
UK Cannabis Cafe On The Cards: Worthing Herald, 17 November 2001
Four Months On, And It's All Gone To Pot For Chris: Worthing Herald, 1 November 2001
In One Part Of London, Police Turn Blind Eye To Marijuana To Target Harder Crime: Associated Press, 5 July 2003
Smoker Marks Start Of Drug Trial With Spliff : This is London, 3 July 2001
50-Mile Round Trip For Safe Spliff : The Times, 3 July 2001
Election Bid Nearly Goes To Pot: Shoreham Herald, 24 May 2001
Would-be MP Escapes Jail In Cannabis Case: Worthing Herald, 24 May 2001
Election Candidate Escapes Prison: Worthing and Sussex Argus, 23 May 2001
Good Day: Guardian Supplement, 22 May 2003
LCA Court Report: Chichester Crown Court, 9 January 2004
Written by Alun Buffry who was attending the hearing.
Sentencing Chris Baldwin, Winston Matthews, Mark Benson
Presiding: Judge Sessions
Four members of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance Executive travelled from as far away as Perth in Scotland to attend the sentencing of some of the main people involved in the setting up and running of Worthing's fantastic cannabis cafes.
Listening to the Judge's comments at the end, one certainly thought that he too considered the cafes a successful example of how such places can be run without major problems with the local community!
At the beginning of December 2003, another man, Mike Allday, who had worked as security on the door at Quantum Leaf Bongchuffa and had pleaded not guilty of managing the premises, walked out of his trial a free man.
Because Chris, Winston and Mark had pleaded guilty to the main and "more serious" charges, many other charges were "left on file".
This means that although no action would be taken they were still listed as offences for future consideration, if anyone appears back in court again.
The main charges originated as a result of the first raid on Quantum Leaf Cafe in November 2002.
At that time a large number of police entered the Cafe to find the "air heavy with smell of cannabis smoke". They also found about 30 people at tables with ashtrays showing evidence of smoking, a kiosk displaying 12 types of cannabis for sale, UKP308 in cash, a poster advertising hash cakes, ready-rolled joints, a collection of smoking utensils, sandwiches, tea and coffee (the only "drugs" on the premises!).
The Court heard that Winston Matthews appeared initially to be in charge of the kiosk and that someone had just sold cannabis to a man called Crispin and a woman called Tripolis. There was no evidence to show how long Winston had been in the kiosk.
There was UKP4000 in a safe in the rear office opened for the police by Mike Allday.
Chris Baldwin was not present at the time but soon turned up to accept full responsibility for everything.
More cannabis in small amounts was found at the defendant's homes and Mike Benson was found to be cultivating 30 plants.
During the police interviews, Chris accepted he was the sole licensee of the shops but stressed that the UKP4000 had come from sales of pipes and such from the Bongchuffa shop, not from sales of cannabis in Quantum Leaf (which was at the rear of the shop through another door and passed security).
Chris explained to the police that his motive for opening the Cafe was political and medical, not financial gain. In fact he had told the police before he opened!
Chris was charged with allowing premises to be used for the consumption of cannabis and resin (two charges)
Then we heard of a whole string of other charges.
Winston was charged with two lots of possession of about 250 grms, two counts of supplying UKP10 worth of cannabis to two undercover police sneaks, and cultivation of two plants.
Chris had been found driving with 97.4 grms of resin although he was apparently not under the influence" at the time.
After a recess for lunch, the court heard that there were many testimonials that Chris had helped people in need and that his Herb Connection had kept forms from patients and letters from their doctors this certainly was a medical supply unit.
We heard about each defendant's previous convictions: Chris was in breach of a suspended sentence of 15 moths since 2001; Winston was in breach of a conditional discharge from October 2001.
Judge Sessions ordered the destruction of all cannabis (medicine) found, along with pipes etc, taking care not to order the destruction of the (hempen) bank notes found in various places! He had been present at Allday's trial and so accepted that each suffered from medical conditions and had a genuine beliefs in the benefits of cannabis and that the law relating to possession and supply should be liberalised.
The defence barristers listed their submission in mitigation (points in favour of the defendants).
They had made guilty please in unusual circumstances;
there was no question of the good character of Baldwin beyond drug offences and all three had made undertakings not to continue campaigning using unlawful methods.
Their age and disabilities and the level of "criminality" should be considered.
Although Bonchuffa was open and at risk from criminality, there were strict rules of conduct, age restrictions and alcohol and hard drugs were not allowed on the premises.
It was a political issue for Chris Baldwin and Winston Matthews, not a moneymaking venture. Chris had stood for election for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance in Worthing in 2001, gaining over 2% of the vote, and had intended contesting the Brent by-election in 2003.
The cafe had been trailed in the press and in fact Chris had encouraged that. It was reported on BBC on-line and a similar cafe had been opened and closed in Stockport with one planned in Taunton.
Many of Chris Baldwin's arguments were now echoed in the Home Office moves towards reclassification although the Judge seemed uncertain whether or not it had yet come into effect.
Much of this case and the operation of the Cafe were concerned with medical supply and The Herb Connection (THC) had been set up solely to help sick people relieve some of their pain and suffering. In fact, registration form were required from potential clients along with name and address of their GP and details of their specific medical complaints. The Herb Connection served as a medicinal cannabis buyers' club that was geographically widespread and covered a spectrum of ages; all the clients actively sought help from Chris.
The barrister said that these were not just fretless young men even though Chris may have been somewhat naive to attempt to justify his attempts; he needed the protection of the law.
We also heard glowing testimonials from Eddie Ellison, retired head of Scotland Yard's drugs squad and from Mrs Wood, proprietor of a business near to Bongchuffa.
Mrs Wood said that the Cafe caused no nuisance - which was a lot more than she could say about the pubs in the area. She had written that Chris Baldwin should be commended for the way he ran the Cafe.
Eddie Ellison had been retired 11 years, previously serving 7 years on the drugs squad with 3 years as head.
He first met Chris Baldwin at the Legalise Cannabis Alliance conference in Norwich in 2001 and had "no doubt" about his political beliefs. He had visited Bongchuffa for one day in 2003 and talked to Chris who had already told local police what he intended to do. He had found it to be an amiable Cafe with no sign of alcohol or hard drugs. H When he had visited the other Cafe, Buddies, he had seen the evidence of medical users, wheelchair access and so on. Mr Eddison said about Chris that he would "trust him to look after his children but regarding running a business he would give that job to his children!"
The defence barrister described Chris then as a man of "great courage having borne such problems; he showed humanity, humility. He urged that he be allowed to keep his freedom as Chris was frail and imprisonment would outweigh criminality in this case. This was more a case of civil disobedience
The Judge then asked for advice on whether or not he was bound to activate the suspended sentence. The CPS barrister told him that it was at the Judge's discretion. He said that the suspended should be activated unless unjust to do so, but that clearly matters have arisen since the suspended was imposed on medical grounds.
Then the Judge said he was unclear if reclassification had already happened: he was told that it would come in on 29 January and at that time sentences for possession would not be given but sentences for supply would be about a third the maximum being reduced from 14 years to 5 (sic).
But the Judge said it would be difficult to justify another suspended sentence against the background of a suspended sentence.
Passing on to Mark Benson, his Barrister said he was a beneficiary and customer of Baldwin, himself suffering from intense pain, with no previous convictions, who occasionally helped serving at the counter in the front area of Bongchuffa.
He used cannabis in preference to painkillers because he had found the effects of the latter to be debilitating and his consultant was aware of his cannabis use. Benson's 30 plants were for his own use and pre-sentence reports stated him to be no risk to the public although he was likely to continue with his cannabis use.
Winston had four references confirming his medical condition and confirming that cannabis seemed to alleviate chronic back pain.
The only point of contention was how long he had served in the kiosk, and there was no evidence either way. He accepted responsibility for the offences and was genuinely committed to seeing a change in law.
He had vowed to stick to lawful campaigning in the future.
Clara O'Donnell from the Legalise Cannabis Alliance had submitted a letter confirming Matthews and Baldwin's political motivation and characters.
The Judge then asked whether Mark Benson's cannabis plants were consistent with personal use" and was told by the Prosecution that the number was consistent with commercial use but also personal. He said that realistically all three would continue to use cannabis. All three had pleaded guilty. He said that the offences cantered around the Bongchuffa and Buddies cannabis cafes in Worthing but started before that when Winston Matthews had been bailed for smoking cannabis in a pub.
Chris Baldwin had taken on the Bongchuffa premises but had assured the owner that he was only selling cannabis smoking requisites. But he had proceeded to set up a cannabis Cafe that became known in the area as a place where cannabis could be used or bought, or both.
Although Chris Baldwin had not been present at the time of the first raid, it was clear that he played a significant part, as he accepted. Mark Benson had in his interview said that sold equipment in the front shop only and was not involved with the Cafe.
The Judge said he would say nothing about most of Winston Matthew's interview with the police but he felt the need to look at the basis of his pleas. Winston had said he made no profit and the Judge accepted that. He also accepted that on the two occasions of supply he may have been simply standing in for someone else. He found it incredible that this happened twice as a mere coincidence and that he believed Winston had played a significant part in running both Bongchuffa and Buddies.
Mark Benson had never worked in the Cafe and never sold drugs.
Chris Baldwin had been interviewed under caution twice and had accepted that it was he who had set up the cafes.
The offences, said the judge, were so serious that only giving a custodial sentence was justified but it did not mean that the Court had to do that.
His "Honour" then took a break and on his return proceeded to outline the mitigation.
To be honest it sounded more like excellent job references and I would have had no problem employing any of them! Judge Sessions described Chris Baldwin in the following terms:
As with the others, he suffered a significant medical condition;
He found that his pain was alleviated by smoking cannabis;
He was committed to the cause of legalisation;
His belief was genuine;
He should be given credit for pleading guilty;
Bongchuffa caused no nuisance to locals;
He had undertaken to stick to legal means of campaigning;
He had rules in the cafes, and they were enforced; it was operated in an orderly way;
He had made no secret of his venture;
Some of his arguments were being used by the Home Office to support reclassification;
Eddie Ellison had spoken highly of him;
He was honest and sincere.
So, having all heard those remarks, it would be normal to expect a non-custodial sentence for Chris but there was that problem of the outstanding suspended sentence.
The Judge said that although he accepted there was no motivation to profit, the whole thing had been a deliberate, calculated flouting of the law, even though the motives may have been respectable and justifiable.
Now we finally arrived at the sentencing.
Mark Benson was given a curfew order not to go out of his house between 7 pm and 6 am for 4 months; noncompliance would mean he would come back for a custodial sentence.
Winston Matthews was sentenced to four lots of four months imprisonment and one of three months, all concurrent and all suspended for one year. There were no separate penalties for other possessions.
For Chris, said the Judge, there was no alternative than an immediate custodial sentence.
He had to activate the suspended sentence from 2001 because Chris had known about it when the Cafe started.
He said that even if he could suspend it again, that would make a mockery of the law.
"With reluctance", he said, he was giving an immediate but reduced custodial sentence of two lots of six months, plus 6 months for breaching the suspended, all to run concurrent, and Chris not to serve more than three months.
So, a RESULT of course, reflecting both the medical involvement and the reclassification due soon. We were all pleased that it had been just months, not years like Colin Davies of Stockport, but of course everyone was very upset to see Chris being "taken down" and off to the birdcages.
MY OPINION: Chris Baldwin, after being described by the Judge in the highest terms (honest, sincere, genuine, responsible, respectable..) , was sent to prison in order to avoid making a mockery of the law which makes a MOCKERY OF JUSTICE!
But that comes as no surprise to me at least. Thirteen years ago, my own Barrister, had told me repeatedly that the Court was not about Justice, it was about Law. "Don't expect Justice in Court", he had told me. I never saw Justice then and I never saw Justice in Chichester on January 9 2004.
Even one day in prison, a fine, or a slap on the wrist is too much for a man who has no victims but so many beneficiaries.
The only was to stop these injustices is to rid us of this senseless prohibition and the only was to do that is to rid ourselves of these politicians.
I KNOW that Chris and Winston agree that is why they intend to stand for election to Parliament in 2005!
Just imagine if Parliament was filled with honest and sincere men like Chris.
All it takes is for a few hundred tokers to get off their arses and stand for the LCA and for all tokers to VOTE.
What will YOU, the reader, do? Sit back and do nothing, let others fight the battles for you or start helping now.
You'd be surprised just how many people call the LCA for advice and help AFTER being busted.
LCA advice is simply: don't wait for the police - act now!
Now, CHECK OUT THIS SITE
Eddie Ellison statement on behalf of Chris Baldwin Chichester Crown court
I am a retired police officer. I retired in 1993 from the Metropolitan Police as a Detective Chief Superintendent. During my police service I spent a great deal of time dealing with drug crime and in particularly at inner London Police Stations where drug mis-use was the main factor in the high crime rates. I served for a total of seven years on the Metropolitan Police Central Drug Squad, with three years as the operational head. Since retirement I have continued to study drug policy and it's effects, served as a trustee on one drug charity and am a patron of a drug policy lobby group. I have written and broadcast on the subject of the UK drug policy and do advocate a change of policy to one generally described as 'legalisation'.
I have been asked to recount my knowledge of Chris Baldwin and his attitude to both the operation of the current cannabis laws and the cafes.
I have known of Chris Baldwin for over three years and met him personally in March 2001 at the party political conference for the 'Legalise Cannabis Alliance Party' in Norwich. Since then I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and have spent a day, in 2003, at the cannabis cafe in Worthing. I have spent some time with him
discussing the current UK Government drug policy and his operation of the cafe.
There is no doubt that his operation of the cafe was contrary to the existing legislation and his acceptance of this before the court is appropriate. He has known this throughout his activities; indeed it has formed a major part of our discussions. He made his intentions clear to me and has additionally publicised those decisions. I have no doubt that he firmly believes that the current legislation in respect of cannabis prohibition is a bad law and he has chosen one route to identify publicly that the operation of cannabis cafes is no threat to society or to the peace
and quiet of a given locality. This has not been his only activity in furtherance of a change in legislation since he has attempted to gain selection as a councillor, has made initial early efforts to stand for parliament, has spoken at meetings and has written and broadcast on the subject.
I have no personal doubt that his beliefs are his major motivation for the cafes rather than being a background excuse for their illegal operation.
Throughout the period of their operation he has sought advice on how to run the cafes with the least detrimental effect on local policing and the local community. He has attempted to maintain a low profile but this has proved
difficult due to the fact that a major national debate is progressing about the legal status of cannabis. That debate has extended across most professions and there have been a variety of national examinations of current policy. It is hardly surprising that the media see the cafes as newsworthy. A number of similar establishments exist currently across the United Kingdom all attempting to maintain as low a profile as possible in order to reduce friction with the local community and the local police. I do understand and sympathise with the dilemma facing police and the courts when confronted with illegal activity based on moral legislative and policy objectives.
In February 2003 I was invited to visit the cafe and again spent time with Chris Baldwin. The cafe was relatively full, the 'dealing' was taking place at regular intervals at the kiosk and there were medical users in the adjacent premises. I spoke to a number of customers and a number of medical users. The behaviour was no different from a licensed public house, indeed it was more relaxed and humorous than many a drinking location. The adjacent, medical supply premises was arranged for easy access of wheelchairs and the 'patients' I spoke to were all in chairs. I was told that charges for medical use were reduced from those in the main cafe but I have no knowledge of the finances of the cafe. Certainly the attendance of customers purchasing cannabis, their behaviour, their appearances and their general courtesy contrasted greatly with the normal illegal trading that I have witnessed many times in London. I saw no sign whatsoever of any controlled substances other than the drug cannabis being sold on the premises.
The court knows of the high levels of cannabis use in the UK. It will also know of the major worry that cannabis users may move onto much more dangerous drugs. The UK has currently moved to a reduction in the priority
placed by police and Government on cannabis using but has not moved to the Dutch pragmatic approach of separating cannabis users from the supply of other illegal drugs by a toleration of cannabis cafes. It can certainly be argued that provision of cannabis through a cafe does reduce the possibility of a younger person being exposed to a supply chain offering other drugs.
That there are different levels of 'supply' is obvious and was identified by the Home Affairs Select Committee report of 2002 when they considered differences between a major, profit motivated commercial supplier and social
supply to friends. They considered an option of a set of different offences of 'supply' but recognised that until a variety of offences were identified the appropriate place for the consideration of the type of supply should be
left to the court and reflected in sentencing. I, certainly, have seen no obvious evidence of high commercial gain in respect of the cafes.
I have, certainly, considered the major motivation being to 'push' the legislation to breaking point for a series of motives; to separate out cannabis from other drugs, to take users away from the traditional underground criminal supply chain, to provide a support service for medical users of cannabis and to show that a low level cannabis supply can be operated without causing a major disturbance to a given locality.
I have not given character evidence in this vein on behalf of any other person other than Chris Baldwin at any time and I do not intend making it a habit.
Additional comments on drug policy can be accessed on the web site
http://eddie.gn.apc.org and are available for quoting