Friends and supporters of a man behind a town's cannabis coffee shop are to
protest at the Houses of Parliament against his jail sentence .

Chris Baldwin, 53, will be 15 days into a six-month term for various
offences related to the drug when the demonstration takes place on Wednesday.

Baldwin's mother Dorothy, 81, said: "My son has helped hundreds of people
who are sick.

"We need to be strong for Chris, so I would ask anyone who knows him to
come to show their support of my son."

The protesters, from the Friends of Worthing Koffee Shops, will demand
Baldwin is freed immediately and cannabis be legalised.

Campaigners have been asked to make posters, wear fancy dress and "bring
smiles and laughter".

Baldwin's friend Winston Matthews, from Horley, said: "When Chris was sent
down, I felt really let down.

"To me it is simple. If cannabis users are still to be locked up, we are
not being treated as UK citizens - it is in effect like being homeless.

"We will be sleeping in St James Palace Park, as the end to our peaceful

Baldwin, a vegan of Carnegie Close, Worthing, announced at the weekend he
had gone on hunger strike at High Down prison in Sutton, Surrey, because he
was not convinced his food was free of animal products.

He was jailed on January 9 for allowing cannabis to be used at a property,
cannabis possession with intent to supply and possession of cannabis.

He had leased a property in Rowlands Road, Worthing, and opened a
Dutch-style coffee shop called the Quantum Leaf in the summer of 2002. Set
behind a pot-smoking paraphernalia store called Bongchuffa, the cafe sold
13 types of marijuana, hash cakes and ready-rolled joints, as well as
sandwiches and soft drinks.

Baldwin's cafe was first raided by police on November 27, 2002, just a few
weeks after it opened.

He then opened another coffee shop called Buddy's in Brougham Road, East
Worthing, and some homeowners demanded a police crackdown.

Baldwin, who stood as a candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham in the
2001 General Election, suffers from spastic paraplegia, uses crutches and
says using cannabis helped to combat debilitating leg spasms.

On January 29, cannabis will become a class C drug, meaning its possession
will no longer be an arrestable offence.

Clara O'Donnell, of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, said: "With the law
change taking place in less than two weeks, it seems a little mad that Mr
Baldwin, who uses cannabis for medical purposes and cannot walk without
crutches, will be locked in a cell at a huge cost to the taxpayer."

Protesters plan to return to Parliament Square on January 28 and again
spend a night in the park before taking their demonstration to the Home
Office the following day.

A spokesman for the Friends of Worthing Koffee Shops said: "The police have
always been happy to allow us to make peaceful protests and we successfully
protested last summer in London on behalf of Biz Ivol, an MS sufferer from

"Like always, we have a reason to be here and we need everyone to show
their support."

Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2004
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Newsquest Media Group