COFFEE, CAKES AND CANNABIS IN CUMBRIA?

Date: Saturday 3rd November 2001

AN Eden man is planning to open an Amsterdam-style cafe which would serve coffee, cakes and cannabis.

Mark Gibson (left), of Front Street, Alston, who stood in the Penrith and the Border constituency for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance at the general election in June, wants to open a “coffee shop” in Carlisle, similar to one which operates in Stockport, near Manchester.

He said he might eventually open a cafe in Alston, but would first concentrate his efforts on setting up the venture in Carlisle. He would also like to have a similar cafe in Penrith one day, but feels the politics of the town would not allow it.

Mr. Gibson is in the process of applying to Eden Council to change the use of his Alston fruit and veg. shop into a cafe, but thinks the main market for this type of service would be in Carlisle because of the city’s student population.

Because Carlisle is of a similar size to Stockport, Mr. Gibson has no doubts the business will take off. He said he was in Stockport on Tuesday, where Colin Davies runs a venture called “The Dutch Experience”, and the place was packed with 70 customers.

Mr. Davies was arrested on the cafe’s opening day but it was reopened in his absence, and, according to Mr. Gibson, has been running ever since.

Mr. Gibson, whose wife, Lezley, uses cannabis to ease her multiple sclerosis, said: “I have got determination. We will always have someone else to reopen it. If the police want to save time, they will leave it alone.”

The law on drugs in Holland is the same as in Britain, but in the Netherlands the sale and use of “soft” drugs like cannabis is tolerated because it is “expedient” to do so. Cannabis and cannabis products are sold openly in Dutch “coffee shops”.

Moves in this country to reclassify cannabis from class B to class C mean that people will not be prosecuted for possessing the drug for personal use.

Paul Brown, director of the Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service, said he thought the Government’s reclassification of cannabis was “credible and sensible”, but that a “cannabis cafe” would still be against the law.

A spokesman for Cumbria police said: “The application for a cafe still has a long way to go. We will be monitoring the situation and will uphold the law as it stands.”

l It is believed that three cannabis cafes are operating in Brixton, London, which the police are currently turning a “blind eye” towards.