They may be toking in the streets in Brixton, but police in Manchester took a decidedly dim view of Colin Davies' efforts to open a Dutch-style cannabis cafe in their neck of the woods. Davies, a notorious medical marijuana activist who has twice won acquittals on medi-pot charges and who last year caused scandal in the tabloids when he gave the Queen a cannabis bouquet, had announced last week that he would open a cannabis cafe on the weekend. The police promised to shut it down. He did and they did.
Davies suffers from debilitating back pain and is a founder of the Medical Marijuana Cooperative, which provides marijuana to some arthritis and multiple sclerosis sufferers who do not wish to buy their medicine on the street. But Davies wanted to go to the next level, providing cannabis to recreational as well as medicinal users in a safe, secure setting.
"Social users will subsidize the low-cost medical users," he told the Manchester Guardian. "I think Britain is ready for this. We want to be transparent and act in a civilized way. We have got to get the medicine to the patients, so we aim to stay open with the support of many local people. I feel it is immoral to withhold cures from people experiencing acute pain," he said.
According to Davies, the cafe would stock three types of pot and three types of resin in 2 gram and 5-gram bags, and would offer pre-rolled joints for novices. The cafe, in a former restaurant in a suburban storefront, would also sell coffee and cakes, but not alcohol. Davies said he had recruited a staff with experience working in Amsterdam's "coffee houses."
The "Dutch Experience" cafe opened on Saturday, but Manchester police shut it down before the first transaction occurred. They arrested Davies on suspicion of possessing cannabis with intent to deliver. They also arrested his employees, one Briton, three Dutch men and a Dutch woman, "on suspicion of being concerned with the supply of controlled drugs," a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
"I believe the cafe was opened and then we went in and arrested him," said the spokeswoman. "The premises have now been closed and the shop is being boarded up."
Manchester is apparently not ready for the Dutch Experience, but this is only the latest skirmish in Britain's evolving conflict over cannabis. With British law enforcement now turning a blind eye to cannabis imports and the Brixton decrim experiment well underway, Colin Davies may have been ahead of his time -- but not necessarily by much.