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Wales: Raided on the first day, the lost cannabis café that brought Amsterdam to Rhyl
Saturday 30 Jul 2022
It's been almost 20-years since a Dutch style cannabis café opened in North Wales.
The early noughties saw increased attempts to bring an Amsterdam style cannabis café culture to the UK. Inspired by the opening of the country's first cannabis café, The Dutch Experience, in Stockport in 2001, a similar cannabis café opened in Rhyl a couple of years later.
The Beggars Belief café opened on Water Street in the family seaside resort in September 2003. However, on its opening day, the premises was raided by North Wales Police.
It was reported in the Wales on Sunday newspaper that soon after the shop opened at noon it was attended by eight police officers. A search of the four storey premises with a sniffer dog uncovered an amount of cannabis reported to have been in the possession of a man who was using the drug to help alleviate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
A few days after the raid on his new café, the owner remained defiant about reopening the following weekend. He said he would do everything to help people who need cannabis for pain relief.
As you might imagine, the café received a mixed reception on its opening. During opening day, people turned up outside to offer their support.
Speaking to Wales on Sunday newspaper, one former farmer who arrived in a wheelchair said: "What is the heinous crime? My cannabis is my medicine. I take it to relieve my pain."
However, another resident said: "I don't want anything that encourages drug taking in this area. To some it may be medicine but it can also be abused especially by youngsters."
Despite the close police attention, the café reopened the next week. It was also soon after that the café's owner got in trouble again.
The Daily Post reported in 2003 that owner published a doctored picture of Harry Potter - dubbed Harry Pothead - smoking a spliff on his website. Warner Brothers, distributors of the Harry Potter films, were not amused and threatened legal action for using the picture without permission.
The owner said: "Warner's solicitors threatened legal action. I told them that I had a picture of Bugs Bunny I could use instead but they weren't happy with that either."
Unlike Stockport's The Dutch Experience, which was fully open about selling cannabis emulating coffee shops in Amsterdam, the Rhyl café reportedly took a more cautious approach. Made up of two adjoining properties, one housed The Beggars Belief café which was open to the general public.
The other area was members-only, where people could go to "access cannabis" or learn how to grow their own plants. The private nature of the members-only area is said to have given the owner and his staff a level of protection they were still closely monitored by police.
In interview last year with a website that promotes the use of cannabis for health reasons, the former café owner is quoted as saying: "When they came into the public area of the Beggars Belief, there was nothing illegal going on.
“There was a sign saying ‘members-only after this door’, implying what goes on without actually admitting to what goes on. We had police officers coming in, great community officers.
"In fact, we used to invite them in and offer them a free coffee. They’d always ask ‘what’s going on in the members’ area?’”
While the café was open, the owner repeatedly faced legal action but said he was happy to keep helping vulnerable people access their choice of medicine without having to come into contact with criminal gangs. The Beggars Belief café closed in 2007 after four years in business.
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