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First Cannabis Cafe Set To Test New Law In Scotland

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Scotlands first cannabis cafe is to open for business next month when
the drug is downgraded to class C.

The Purple Haze internet cafe, a former greasy spoon in Leith, will
become a private members' club in the evenings, where people will be
allowed to bring small amounts of their own supply to smoke.

The controversial move will present the first test of how the new law
will be applied in Scotland.

Cannabis cafes have operated in England for up to seven months before
the owners faced prosecution.

However, there appeared to be little prospect that authorities in
Scotland will allow the experiment to continue for long, with police
insisting that allowing people to smoke cannabis on your premises
would be illegal, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

Long-time cannabis smoker Paul Stewart, owner of the cafe, which used
to be called the Ocean, said he believed turning it into a private
club in the evenings would allow people to bring and smoke amounts of
the drug deemed to be for "personal use".

It is thought that people caught smoking cannabis at home will
generally not face court action, but receive only a warning or a
fiscal fine, unless there are aggravating factors such as previous
offences.

Stewart, 37, said: "I use cannabis and I'm going to allow people to
smoke it. I'm not going to sell it, but I'll allow people to bring
their own.

"I'm going to run this as a private party and make it members only
with a ?5 joining fee. I'm getting membership cards made just now.

"I don't think there's going to be a problem, but I could be wrong. I
could end up in jail."

He said the cafe would operate as normal until 4pm and then become a
private club. While cannabis would be allowed, hard drugs and alcohol
would not.

He plans to proclaim the changeover, planned for the end of January,
with a banner saying 'Free Weed Available Here'. Free Weed is a
magazine about cannabis.

However, a spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said Stewart
would face prosecution even if the cafe was run as a private club.

"He would be committing an offence. It is an offence if you allow your
premises to be used knowingly for the smoking of cannabis," she said.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said the change from class B to C would
make little difference in Scotland.


Pubdate: Sat, 13 Dec 2003
Source: Scotland On Sunday (UK)
Copyright: 2003 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Contact: letters_sos@scotlandonsunday.com
Website: The Scotsman - Scottish News