Netherlands - Cannabis cafe owner quits for amsterdam

Discussion in 'Coffeeshops' started by Alfa, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    CANNABIS CAFE OWNER QUITS FOR AMSTERDAM

    The owner of Scotland's first cannabis cafe today announced he was quitting
    the Capital to work in an Amsterdam coffee shop.

    Paul Stewart, 37, who opened the Purple Haze Cafe in Leith earlier
    this year, said he was fed up with the "backward" nature of Scotland's
    drug laws.

    The former landscape gardener, who is trying to sell the lease on his
    Portland Street cafe, hit out after receiving a UKP 500 fine on
    Wednesday for allowing people to use cannabis on the premises.

    Stewart, who lives in Leith, pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court
    to the charges but escaped a maximum three-month jail sentence or a
    UKP 2500 fine. He still faces charges for selling magic mushrooms at
    his cafe.

    Speaking today, he said: "I've had enough. My business has been ruined
    by this venture and I have nothing left. I invested UKP 45,000 in the
    Purple Haze but I have lost so much money I will now struggle to pay
    the UKP 500 fine.

    "I will be paying the money back at a rate of UKP 10 a week. All the
    attention and the coverage of my cafe was great at first, but it
    quickly died down and I stopped running the place as a cannabis cafe
    after just four weeks.

    "It is still open as a normal cafe, but I have so few customers I
    usually shut at about 2pm. Times are very hard, which is why the lease
    is up for sale.

    "Once I have sold the place, that's it. I'm off to Holland and I will
    try to get a job in a coffee shop in Amsterdam."

    In the Netherlands the sale of small quantities of cannabis for
    personal use in cafes is permitted. The outlets, which draw millions
    of tourists each year, allow patrons to buy marijuana over the counter
    and openly smoke joints without fear of arrest.

    In the UK, cannabis was downgraded from a category B to a category C
    drug on January 29 - the same day Purple Haze opened for business.
    People in Britain are not usually arrested for possession, although it
    remains an illegal substance.

    But Scottish police indicated at the time they would continue to take
    a tough line on use and possession of cannabis, in contrast to many
    English forces.

    Stewart, who is willing to sell the eight-year cafe lease for offers
    over UKP 15,000, said the Scottish system was "morally wrong".

    He said: "I opened the cafe to show the problem with the laws on
    cannabis use.

    "We made our point and we couldn't believe the extent
    of the media
    coverage. There were over a hundred people on the first day signing up
    to become members, including [MSP] Tommy Sheridan, but I'm down to
    just a handful of customers now.

    "I've had enough of the harassment I get from the local authorities
    here in Edinburgh. It's been very stressful.

    "There was a police vigil outside my cafe every two days or so.
    Scotland is just so backward.

    "The politicians are too timid over here, but in Holland their outlook
    on life is fantastic.

    "However, I will still come back to Scotland regularly as it is my
    home and I have a son over here. And if anyone else wants to try
    setting up another cannabis cafe in Edinburgh I will give them my full
    support."

    Cult book publisher and author Kevin Williamson is planning to open
    another cafe in the Capital. Mr Williamson, who is the Scottish
    Socialist Party's drugs spokesman, said Purple Haze was a "test case"
    and he had been waiting to see what punishment Stewart received.

    Following the UKP 500 fine, Mr Williamson said its was a "token slap
    on the wrists", adding that plans would be drawn up to open another
    cannabis cafe, this time in the city centre.