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Source: The Argus, Worthing, UK

Pub date: Friday 29 November 2002

Subj: UK: Cannabis raid boss defiant

Author: Huw Borland


The manager of a Dutch-style coffee shop has vowed to keep on trading and said: "They'll have to lock me up to stop me."

Cannabis campaigner Chris Baldwin was one of 12 arrested and questioned when 30 officers raided The Quantum Leaf in Rowlands Road, Worthing.

Today, despite attracting the attention of the law, the shop, behind smoking accessory shop Bongchuffa, reopened for business.

Mr Baldwin, who also owns the accessory shop, said: "We lost a bit of money in the raid and quite a lot of cannabis was taken away but that's okay.

"The most amazing thing about it is that after the raid, 12 people who are part of it formed the opinion we would open as normal. I have never seen them on such a high - we are even more determined to stay open."

The cafe's digital display, which had read "152 days and still not busted," was updated to "Busted at last but still open."

Mr Baldwin, who was the Legalise Cannabis Alliance candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham in the last general election, declined to give exact details of the cafe's operation because of the legal action.

But he said: "We are running a Dutch-style coffee shop - make want you want from that.

"Hundreds of people come here and smoke. Whether they bust us or the law changes, they have got to lock me up if they want to stop me."

The campaigner said the cafe's profits were used to subsidise people with disabilities, help fund the Legalise Cannabis Alliance and support community projects - the cafe donated 50 to Worthing's Christmas lights appeal.

Mr Baldwin said: "A lot of our disabled clients do not have a social life outside this place.

"We had our seats done with a wheelchair point so they do not have to feel like a second-class citizen when chairs have to be moved for them.

"We are here to stay. If they move us on from this place, we will find another and start again. The camaraderie here is beautiful and so strong."

The raid, which happened on Wednesday, followed a number of complaints to police by nearby residents.

Mr Baldwin said: "It's up to the police. We just carry on regardless but I think it was pointless. Our relationship with the community has been fantastic.

"I do not know how many called in to complain but I think you'll find even more people want us here.

"I believe society needs coffee shops. One or two is not enough for a town of this size. Just like pubs, it is a place of leisure to go to for people who do not want to drink alcohol."

A 55-year-old woman customer from Worthing said she smokes cannabis to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis.

She said: "I smoke it regularly because I suffer pain in my back. It allows me more movement. It's a relief because pain killers only do so much. "I think this cafe is marvellous because they are helping people who need help. The raid was a shame because they are helping the disabled."

Mr Baldwin has another Dutch-style coffee shop in east Worthing.