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INFLUX OF DRUG USERS FEARED OVER CANNABIS CAFE PLANS

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ANTI-drugs campaigners last night warned of an influx of users to Scotland
if cannabis cafes are allowed, as it emerged that the man behind the
Trainspotting publishing company plans to open an outlet in Edinburgh.

Kevin Williamson, of Rebel Inc, claimed he intends to open Scotland's first
Amsterdam-style cafe in the city next May, and that he wants to open
dialogue with Lothian and Borders Police on the matter.

Mr Williamson, who steered Irvine Welsh's drugs novel to international
success, said he hopes the cafe would sell pre-rolled joints for medical
and recreational use.

He cited the ill-fated trial of tolerance zones for prostitutes as an
example of Edinburgh's liberal attitude towards crimes which take up
valuable police time, but are considered relatively minor.

A police spokesman said yesterday he was unaware of the plans and declined
to comment, although another Scots force pointed out last week that the
move would be illegal when pro-cannabis campaigners said they planned to
open a cafe in Dundee at some stage.

The move comes after David Blunkett, the home secretary, last month
announced the reclassification of cannabis from a class B to a class C
drug, putting it on par with tranquillisers and anabolic steroids.

It also follows the arrests last week of alleged users in Stockport,
Greater Manchester, after the UK's first cannabis cafe was opened there in
September.

Alistair Ramsay, director of Scotland Against Drugs, said he was convinced
that if cannabis cafes were allowed it would lead to an influx of users to
Scotland.

He said: "The Dutch experience does not give the answers that so many of
those who propose the adoption of cannabis cafes in Scotland believe will.

"In Holland, the Dutch people are very concerned that the majority of
people using the cannabis cafes are not Dutch. What these have become are
magnets for people to come into the country to smoke cannabis.

"If we introduce cannabis cafes in Scotland, we would then become a magnet
for outsiders to come into the country and smoke their cannabis and I don't
believe the ordinary people of Scotland would want that."

Mr Williamson said he believed public opinion now favours more relaxation
of the law, with more plans to open separate cafes in Brighton and Worthing.

"After years of taking part in countless marches, debates and meetings,
writing articles, papers and books on the subject, and despairing at the
ignorance and irrationality of the opposition to legalisation of cannabis,
prohibition is about to collapse under the weight of its own
unworkability," he was reported as saying.

He described current policy as "insane", adding: "In some countries, such
as Belgium and Switzerland, it is now legal to grow your own. Other
countries, such as Luxembourg, are moving in this direction, with still
others, such as Germany, already implementing radical changes in drug
policy in some regions.

"The idea that cannabis is a relatively harmless and pleasurable substance,
which can do medical and social good, is becoming accepted."

It was suggested that the Dundee cafe would offer cut-price "medi-weed" for
people with medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, while also
catering for recreational users.

However, a Tayside Police spokesman said: "As the law stands, anyone doing
this in Scotland would be acting illegally."

The situation in Stockport took a new turn yesterday when police questioned
12 cannabis campaigners after they allegedly smoked the drug outside a
police station. They were among around 30 demonstrators gathered outside
Stockport police station protesting about a second raid on Britain's first
cannabis cafe last Tuesday..

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said around 30 people congregated
outside the police station for what was described as a "peaceful protest".
Officers are understood to have moved in when 12 demonstrators each lit up
a joint.


Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Mon, 26 Nov 2001
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 The Herald
Contact: letters@theherald.co.uk
Website: Herald Scotland
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Brian Donnelly
 
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