Worthing's Cannabis Champion Jailed

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CANNABIS campaigner Chris Baldwin has been jailed for six months after
running a Dutch-style "coffee shop" in Worthing. Around 30 supporters
watched from the public gallery at Chichester Crown Court on Friday as
Baldwin was sentenced for running the Quantum Leaf cafe in Rowlands Road,
which was fronted by cannabis paraphernalia shop Bongchuffa.

Angry shouts came from the gallery as Judge John Sessions sent Baldwin, 53,
of Carnegie Close, East Worthing, to prison. Police officers had to clear
the public gallery after some of the campaigners would not leave the court.
Baldwin appeared only days before cannabis is reclassified from a class B
to class C and Judge Sessions said he was sentencing with this in mind.

At a previous hearing Baldwin, who stood as a candidate for the Legalise
Cannabis Alliance (LCA) in the 1997 General Election, pleaded guilty to two
counts of possession with intent to supply, two counts of possession of
cannabis, two counts of supplying the drug and cultivation of cannabis.

Mark Benson, 38, of Irene Avenue, Lancing, and Winston Matthews, 47, from
Horley, also appeared for sentencing. Benson worked in Bongchuffa. He
pleaded guilty to two counts of permitting premises to be used for the
smoking of cannabis, possession of cannabis and cultivating cannabis
plants. He was given a four-month curfew order between the hours of 7pm and
6am.

Matthews worked behind the counter in Quantum Leaf. He pleaded guilty to
two counts of possession with intent to supply, two counts of possession of
cannabis, two counts of supplying the drug and cultivation of cannabis
plants and was given a four-month suspended prison sentence.

Judge Sessions said he accepted Baldwin had opened the cafe as a political
statement and the defendants all used the drug to alleviate the pain from
serious medical conditions.

The police carried out a series of raids of the Quantum Leaf cafe following
its opening in May, 2002. The majority of the charges appearing at
Chichester Crown Court on Friday related to a raid on November 27, 2002.

Peter Woodall, defending, said Baldwin has suffered from spastic paraplegia
since the age of seven and has been smoking cannabis for 30 years. The
court also heard evidence from Edward Ellison, a former Metropolitan police
officer who served on the drug squad. He met Baldwin at LCA marches and
described him as "a man of great courage, great humour and great humility".
Baldwin had been given two suspended prison sentences for previous cannabis
related offences and Judge Sessions said he would be making "a mockery of
the law" if he did not send him to prison.

He said Baldwin was receiving a reduced sentence in light of his medical
difficulties and reclassification of the drug on January 29. Judge Sessions
told Baldwin: "You are genuinely and honestly committed to trying to
persuade the government to a change in the law. "Your campaign is
supported by many. Those who have supported it are often people who have
been in pain for many years."


Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jan 2004
Source: Worthing Herald (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Worthing Herald
Contact: letters@worthingtoday.co.uk