Sunday, 1 February 2015



Extract from

The UK Coffeeshop / Cannabis Café movement was inspired by Colin Davies and Nol van Shaik.  I offered my support but never went to Stockport.  Nol ran a Coffeeshop course in Haarlem, Holland, and several campaigners including Chris Baldwin and Mark Gibson went along.  They were trained in quality, strains and how to serve up, how to make hash from the trimmings off the bud sold later in coffeeshops there.  Great plans were afoot.

Colin Davies with Nol van Shaik

Coffeeshop Course in Holland

More Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés on the menu

Wednesday 21 Nov 2001
The arrest of the owner of Britain's first cannabis café is unlikely to deter others from opening similar Amsterdam-style coffee shops. Colin Davies, who runs the Dutch Experience in Stockport, has been charged with a number of drug-related offences including permitting premises to be used for the smoking of cannabis.

But Mark Gibson, who is aiming to set up a cannabis café in Carlisle, says the police raid doesn't change anything. He told Ananova: "You can expect no more.  It won't break our spirit."  

Mr Gibson is one of a number of people planning cafés in Cumbria, Devon, Sussex and Dundee.  

Before Tuesday's raid he said police were likely to "use discretion" when dealing with them. Before his arrest, Mr Davies told Ananova such cafés could become widespread.  "I can foresee there being a hundred of these places in the next year or so," he said. However, a Home Office spokesman said: "Cannabis will still remain a controlled drug for both possession and supply."

And a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "The decision as to whether such cannabis cafés would be introduced in Britain is a matter for Government."

DrugScope, a charity that has just compiled a report for the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into drug laws, has looked at the system of licensed cafés in Amsterdam.  A spokesman for the charity says it has advantages and disadvantages which would need to be further examined.  

We're to stay, says the cannabis café
Dianne Bourne
Metro News, Manchester
Friday 11 Jan 2002

The Dutch business partner in the UK's first cannabis café has issued the rally cry: "We're here to stay." Nol Van Schaik, co-owner of the Dutch Experience in Stockport, said if they were forced to move from Hooper Street they would just find somewhere else.  

"We are doing something that is not according to the law, but I don't see it as illegal. "In the back room here everyone is smoking joints.  The police could come every day and arrest people, but they don't. "They seem to come just when it pleases them, or when there is media interest in the coffee shop.  To me that is neglect of their duty."  

Within hours of Metro News going to press last week, with a front page story on The Dutch Experience's burgeoning trade, police raided the coffee shop and made three arrests.  

They included volunteer bookkeeper Robin Wright, arrested for holding a key to the coffee shop, and having rates, council tax and telephone bills for the shop.  

Police also raided the shop in November, four days after Metro News reported how The Dutch Experience was packed with cannabis smokers from across the country.  

Café co-owner Colin Davies was arrested then and remains on remand in Strangeways on charges of possessing cannabis, possession with intent to supply and permitting premises to be used for smoking cannabis. But Mr Van Schaik, aged 47, in Stockport to face magistrates today on cannabis possession charges, said: "We're here to stay.  Even if they managed to get us out of this building we'd just get another." Mr Van Schaik, aged 47, owns three coffee shops in Holland.   

He added: "This place needs follow-up.  We need other places, not just Stockport, to stick their neck out for the cause."

It looked like the battle was to continue and beyond Stockport.

Colin Davies was one of the few people that obtained a not guilty verdict after admitting using cannabis for pain relief.

Another had been in 2000 when Lezley Gibson, who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, was found not guilty.  She was remarkably open and honest about her cannabis use, as was husband Mark who had stood for LCA in 2001.  Lezley was arrested again- this time in Stockport!  We were all outraged.

Police lock up cannabis Lezley
David Ottewell
News & Star, Carlisle
Saturday 05 Jan 2002

A CUMBRIAN multiple sclerosis sufferer who won the legal right to smoke cannabis as medicine has been locked up for four hours after being arrested again for possession of the drug. Lezley Gibson was carted off by officers who raided an illegal cannabis café in Stockport she was visiting with her husband Mark.  

The 37-year-old mother-of-one claims she had her shoelaces removed before being locked in a cell until late on Thursday night with no food or water. Mrs Gibson, of Alston, said yesterday that the trauma of finding herself in a jail cell nearly triggered an MS attack. "My legs went into spasm," she said.  "I could not believe they were being so cruel." Mrs Gibson and husband Mark has travelled to Stockport to support cannabis campaigner Colin Davies, owner of the Dutch Experience café in the town, who was appearing in court on Thursday. They were in the shop when it was raided by police.  

Mrs Gibson was arrested after admitting having with her what she describes as "medicine." She was taken to Stockport police station before being questioned by officers and bailed without charge. "I was totally devastated when they put me in a cell," she said.  "I had no food and no water."  

Mrs Gibson hit the headlines in September 2000 when a Carlisle jury found her not guilty, on the grounds of medical necessity, of possessing cannabis. A spokesman for Greater Manchester police confirmed that a 37-year-old woman had been arrested and released on bail without charge until February.

'Softly softly' scheme on soft drugs lets off hundreds with a caution
Ian Burrell
The Independent
Thursday 03 Jan 2002

---Turning a "blind eye" to cannabis use has saved 2,000 hours of police time since the pilot scheme was introduced last July, Scotland Yard has said. The trial scheme in the south London borough of Lambeth has resulted in more than 400 drug users escaping prosecution for possession.  

The scheme is also estimated to have avoided potential court costs running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Metropolitan Police, which is extending the pilot until spring, said that since the trial began it had cautioned about 75 drug users a month.

In the period from July to the end of November, 381 were dealt with under the scheme, which is centred on the Brixton area.  In the same period in 2000, 278 drug users were arrested and taken to court for cannabis possession.  Each cannabis arrest results in about five hours of extra work for police officers and can cost £500 in court time if the defendant pleads not guilty. Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the south London scheme had been a success.  "Cannabis use and possession is a social matter, not a criminal one.  This approach has freed police to pursue serious offenders."David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has been impressed by the scheme and has told MPs that he wants cannabis possession to be made into a non-arrestable offence across the country. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is expected to give approval for such a change by spring. However, some police officers are said to be unhappy that they still have to complete considerable amounts of paperwork even for the new "caution and confiscation" approach. Other police forces have voiced reservations, saying the scheme denies officers the opportunity to search offenders' houses and find evidence of more serious crimes. Commander Brian Paddick, the head of Lambeth police, accepted that the scheme would benefit from some modification.  He said: "I think it's been successful because officers can deal with cannabis quicker and get back on the streets, placing the emphasis on aiming to arrest people for possessing and dealing crack cocaine."A team of consultants appointed by Scotland Yard and the Police Foundation is evaluating the scheme and will report by the end of February.

More cannabis cafés were announced, although the only ones that I know of that got going were in Bournemouth and in Worthing - and several other places that never happened.

Cafés to test cannabis laws
Simon Freeman
This Is Brighton and Hove
Wednesday 20 Mar 2002

A decade after police closed the notorious "73 café", the return of Dutch-style cannabis coffee shops could be just around the corner.  In 1993 TV presenter and Buddhist-nun Ani Chudrun opened Britain's first cannabis café.

But within '73 minutes' police had moved in, the cakes seized and Ani was arrested.  

She was released with a caution but the police's tough stance sent out a strong message which put a stop to anyone else trying to test the law. However, a new group of entrepreneurs are moving into action with the planned downgrading of cannabis from Class B to Class C, reducing penalties for offences from 14 years to five years. While not decriminalised, police now appear to be allowing the drug to be openly smoked in some areas of the country. In Stockport, Colin Davies has been arrested for opening The Dutch Experience but the café remains open while he waits on remand. And in Bournemouth, pensioners are raising cannabis plants to supply a planned new outlet in a converted warehouse. Brighton is next in line and if proposals gain public support a café could be open by the summer. Detective Chief Inspector Martin Cheeseman, head of Brighton's CID, said as the law stands police would be forced to take action against such outlets. He said: "We would have no alternative but to take action because even though cannabis has been re-classified this would still be a flagrant breach of the law. "Our concern is that it sets a precedent for a lax attitude towards drug use.  The politicians' views may be changing but I'm not convinced members of the public are. "What people do in their own homes is a separate matter but we couldn't allow the law to be broken to that extent and would take positive action." Groups and charities involved with drug abuse are angry attention is being deflected from the real issues surrounding drugs. A spokeswoman for Addaction said: "We would be happier if more Press attention was devoted to how treatment works to help people rather than the legal issues around cannabis. "Re-classification and legalisation issues are really red herrings, they take the focus off the real problems and the real solutions, and they don't stop addiction. "Re-classifications to category C means cannabis is still illegal. "There is also no doubt the legal substance alcohol can be a gateway to Class A drug use. "And it must be said, that for some people cannabis use will also be problematic."But despite concerns it appears cannabis cafés may become a reality. In Cardiff campaigners are opening a shop charging £15 for a cup of coffee with a free side-order of cannabis in a bid to circumvent the dealing side of the law. Jerry Ham, a homelessness worker and human rights campaigner from Hove, is keen to work with public opinion as he explores plans for a coffee shop in Brighton. He said: "We don't want this to be an under-the-counter stunt, we want to open up the debate. "I think Brighton is a place that can embrace change and see the positive benefits of a responsible approach to cannabis. "Certainly things have moved on and attitudes changed since the 73 café"Now I'm trying to build up links in the community to create a centre which has a medical aspect as well as a social side."Jerry, who was inspired to launch the project after many years working with the homeless, said: "I've seen the effects of prohibition.  "It victimises the end users who become prey to their dealers. "I would like the authorities to see this as an experiment to see what happens and maybe allay some of the inevitable fears."Chris Baldwin, who polled 920 votes for the Legalise Cannabis Party in Worthing in the general election, said last year he intended to open a café in the town. But he and colleague Trevor Scott are finding it difficult to convince landlords their plan will work. He said: "The majority of people we've spoken to say if it was legal we could have a place tomorrow but people are being very wary."The pair have been invited to spend five days in Amsterdam learning the trade under the tutelage of coffee shop entrepreneur partner Nol van Scheik, who has been instrumental in the Stockport café where alcohol, hard drugs and anyone under 18 are banned. He said: "There are problems, but we're still determined to go ahead." A spokeswoman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: "Reducing cannabis to a Class C drug could lead to increased use with its related risks - largely those of smoking it with tobacco and the risk of mental health problems for heavy users. "On the other hand, a lot of police time is spent on cannabis-related prosecutions and this would free them up to concentrate on Class A drugs like heroin and crack cocaine. "It would also reduce the number of people who acquire criminal convictions for cannabis possession which can seriously affect their life chances."

The Bournemouth café was rapidly closed down after the owner foolishly (in my opinion) went on TV news and waved a bundle of banknotes in front of the camera.


Chris Baldwin

The Worthing cannabis cafés were to last over a year.   Eventually Chris Baldwin was arrested and sent to prison – which led to more protests before he was released early.

Chris named his first Cannabis Café and Head shop "Bongchuffa" and not long afterwards he opened the "Quantum Leaf", also in Worthing.  People such as Sarah Chalk, Winston Matthews and Phil Lockwood worked there.

The head shop "Bongchuffa" was the front for the Café "Buddies" and one had to go through a locked door to get into the café  Inside sat, usually, Chris.  There was  a small booth with a price list offering several sorts of hash and weed.  I went down a couple of times and managed to find a seat next to Chris's 80-year-old mother, Dottie Baldwin, who smoked a small water bong to help ease her pains and fully supported Chris' venture; in fact most of the locals did.  Alan Simmons and a couple of others had done some splendid artwork on the walls.  It was a really example of how a Cannabis Café in the UK could be run.

Dorothy Baldwin
Letters, Worthing Herald
Thursday 06 Feb 2003

Why do the police persistently persecute Chris Baldwin?He was preparing another coffee shop, when the police went in to see what he was up to.  An elderly couple own it, so they went to see them.  By threatening them with prosecution, they decided not to go ahead, so Chris lost out. The coffee shops get rid of street dealers, who also sell hard drugs to young people.  They also provide a safe environment where friends can meet and enjoy each other's company.  The police are wasting taxpayers money, and their limited resources. Dorothy BaldwinSackville RoadWorthing.  

The place was continually crowded, as one would imagine with such a fantastic array of goods on offer, the back room always full of smoke and laughter.  I don't think there was one unpleasant incident and not one spot of trouble until the police arrived.

I was on my way to visit the café for the second time, in a car with Alan Simmons, when we heard the café had just been busted and that Chris was banged up.  By the time we reached the café, it was open again.  We all jumped into cars and headed down to Worthing police station to protest outside.  It was damn freezing in the wind, but we shouted slogans and waved flags for a while.  The police virtually ignored us.  Several people smocked bongs.

Campaigners hold demo for trio on drug charges
The Argus, Worthing
Wednesday 19 Feb 2003

WEED ROLE: More than 70 people staged a demo outside Worthing Magistrates Court and the town's police buildingsCAMPAIGNERS seeking the legalisation of cannabis staged a protest outside two Worthing police buildings and the town's magistrates court. The action was timed to coincide with the appearance in court of three men on drug charges. Members of the 70-strong group toured the town centre and visited Worthing police station in Union Place and Highdown division's headquarters at Centenary House in Worthing. Chris Baldwin, 52, of Carnegie Close, Worthing, who ran the Quantum Leaf café and adjoining Bongchuffa shop in Rowlands Road, Worthing, appeared before magistrates yesterday with employees Mark Benson and Adrian Allday. Baldwin did not indicate a plea to charges of possessing and supplying cannabis and allowing premises to be used for the smoking of cannabis on November 27 last year. Benson, 37, of Irene Avenue, Lancing, denied supplying cannabis and permitting premises to be used for the smoking of cannabis. Allday, 37, of Leconfield Road, Lancing, denied permitting premises to be used for cannabis smoking. All were bailed until April 1.  


Demo as cannabis four face charges
Worthing Herald
Thursday 03 Apr 2003

PRO-CANNABIS supporters staged yet another protest in Worthing on Tuesday morning. The peaceful protesters gathered outside Worthing Magistrates' Court to call for cannabis to be legalised and to support four men appearing at court on charges relating to the former cannabis café, Bongchuffa, in Rowlands Road. Café founder Chris Baldwin, 53, of Carnegie Close, Worthing, is charged with being the occupier of premises permitting a drug offence and cannabis possession with intent to supply. He appeared with a new, smart look - and minus the trademark long hair.  Mike Allday, 37, of Thompson Close, Durrington, is charged with being the occupier of premises permitting a drug offence. Mark Benson, 27, of Irene Avenue, lancing, is charged with being the occupier of premises permitting a drug offence, possession of cannabis, producing a controlled drug and possession of cannabis with intent to  supply. Winston Matthews, 46, of Horley in Surrey, is charged with being the occupier of premises permitting a drug offence.  All men were released on  bail to appear again on April 15 and their cases will be committed to crown court. After the court hearing, the protesters, who were carrying banners which read "free the weed" and were chanting, marched to the Town Hall, where they presented a petition in support of legalising cannabis to council staff and spoke with councillor Bob Smytherman. Sarah Chalk, of Friends of Worthing Koffeeshops, said: "The protest went very well and people who turned out were amazing.  There was a real feeling of support. "The petition was signed by more than 400 people and we are going to carry on campaigning - we plan to go to Downing Street".

In May 2003, Sarah Chalk and Peter Crispin were taken to Worthing Magistrates' Court for their supposed role in the cafés:

Bail for pair facing supply charges
Worthing Herald
Thursday 15 May 2003
Two people appeared in court charged with being involved in the supply of drugs at Buddies, the cannabis coffee shop in East Worthing. Sarah Chalk, 40, of Goring Road, Goring, and Peter Crispin, 31, of Scotney Close, Durrington, appeared at Worthing Magistrates' Court on Monday. Chalk was charged with possession of cannabis with intent to supply and being concerned in the management of a premises allowing the supply of cannabis. Crispin was also charged with possession of cannabis with intent to supply and being concerned in the management of a premises allowing the supply of cannabis. They had both pleaded not guilty to the charges at an earlier court hearing. They were remanded on conditional bail until May 29.  

The CPS don't like to hurry these cases: they like to make people worry instead.

In May 2003, Buddies was raided again:

Police raid on café
Jo Breach
Worthing Herald
Thursday 29 May 2003
Ten people have been arrested during the latest in a string of raids on alleged cannabis cafés in Worthing. Police seized cash and suspected controlled drugs from Buddy's in Brougham Roadyesterday afternoon. The raid was part of Operation Harrow, a crackdown on cafés in the town which are said to be run in the style of Amsterdam coffee shops. It follows the closure of premises in Victoria Road last week and of the Bongchuffa café last year, as well as recent high-visibility police action in the area. This included officers stopping and searching people leaving the cafés Detective Inspector Nigel Brown, who is leading the investigation, said: "The operation should be taken as an indication of our determination.  Asset seizure orders will be applied for and further arrests will be made as evidence is gathered.  Our investigation continues."Residents welcomed yesterday's raid. A spokesman for the East Worthing Action Group said: "This raid is long overdue but very welcome as nobody around here wants the café"He said just hours after officers left, a notice went up in the café window saying 'open as usual tomorrow'. The spokesman said: "Now we want to see police do a bit more and actually close it down." Their fears were backed by Worthing Council leader Sheila Player, who said police were taking the matter very seriously. Of the ten people arrested, eight have been cautioned, one released on bail and another released without charge. A number of people have been charged with offences relating to the operation of alleged cannabis cafés and are awaiting trial.  

In June 2003,  supporters announced that they would hold a party in celebration of the cafés:

Split Over Party At Raid Café
Huw Borland
The Argus, Worthing
Thursday 26 June 2003

---Residents are furious at a controversial celebration to mark the first anniversary of alleged cannabis cafés in Worthing. Staff at Buddy's, in Brougham Road, had invited MPs, councillors and dignitaries to view their premises. The enterprise and other alleged Dutch-style cafés have been repeatedly raided by police but two sites are still up and running. Café staff insist they provide a much-need community service but Colin Gregg, of the East Worthing Action Group, is disgusted. He said: "This is an absolute disgrace.  The police and local authorities should have done something about this a long time ago. "You have the feeling, with cannabis about to be downgraded in a few months, that east Worthing has been sold down the river. "Police have done several raids but nothing has been effective.  The owners are just given back the keys each time.  Each time they are raided they are back to work within 10 minutes - it has been a waste of everybody's money. "Whatever your views on cannabis are, whether it should be legalised or not, it is illegal and should not be allowed." Detective Inspector Nigel Brown is heading Operation Harrow, which is investigating the alleged cannabis cafésHe said: "I am disappointed that this is being celebrated.  We are working hard to shut such cafés down. "The Bongchuffa café in Rowlands Road was shut down last year and last month another in Victoria Road was successfully closed.  However, our information is that this has now reopened.  But our investigations continue." Sarah Chalk, who works at Buddy's, said a 1,000-signature petition from customers supporting the cafés would be on show during the open day, as well as a 100-strong petition by nearby residents and shop owners. She said a lot of people in the vicinity appreciated the cafe's community work, which included maintenance of neighbouring shops. Ms Chalk became involved in the controversial cafés after one opened in Worthing town centre. She said: "I have had a couple of discussions with people outside the café saying that it's bringing the neighbourhood down and to go away from east Worthing. "My answer is to invite them in and see the place before they judge.  Not many have taken us up on that offer but one couple came in and left with a slightly different opinion."A number of people have been charged with drug offences in relation to the cafés and their cases are making their way through the courts.

In August 2003, it was announced that the two Worthing cafés would be closed.

Cannabis joint finally stubbed out by police
The Worthing Herald
Thursday 14 Aug 2003

SUN is shining, weather is sweet - the words of Bob Marley may have tempted cannabis café staff to shut up shop and enjoy the weather. But their hand was forced after yet another police raid on Buddies caféStaff have said that they will not re-open the Brougham Road café, as they have done after previous raids. A statement from the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, signed The Koffeeshop Crew, said: "After a year of trading we have decided to close Buddies koffeeshop. The week of police 'siege' proved that the police have finally won the war.  
It took them a year.  We at the koffeeshop have a social conscience we cannot allow the limited resources that the police have, to be wasted on policing the koffeeshop.  They would be better served looking after the rising crime rate here in Worthing."It went on to apologise to the people in East Worthing for the "traffic congestion and any other inconveniences caused". The statement claimed that the café was non-profit making and money raised went to the sick and disabled. The police raid culminated in one arrest, for breach of bail conditions, and the seizure of a quantity of cannabis.  Buddies was closed the next day by staff operators, who cleared out the premises. Detective Inspector Nigel Brown said that he was "delighted" with the news and called the café "a running sore for the community". He added: "However, we are not complacent.  Any attempt to re-open the premises or move to alternative premises will be immediately dealt with in the same fashion.  In addition, only half of the job is complete as we still have a second cannabis café operating in Victoria Road.  This will now receive the full attention of all the police resources dedicated to this operation - we will shut it down."The Victoria Road café is still open but police vans and officers have been stationed outside, stopping "customers" as they leave. Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing, said he welcomed the demise of Buddies. "This news will come as a great relief to all my constituents living in and around East Worthing who have had to put up with this establishment for over a year now.  What supposedly started as a political statement by the Legalise Cannabis Alliance developed into a nightmare for local people, attracting all sorts of undesirables intimidating passers by, sending out the wrong messages to impressionable youngsters and tying up a lot of police time and resources which should have been available to fight crime elsewhere in the town."He called for the law to be changed and said it currently allowed "them to stick two fingers up at the law".


On May 16th, 2003, Clara O'Donnell  arranged a screening of "Green Britain" in the Centre of Coventry – brave lass!  Tickets were sold in advance.  I travelled to Coventry that day with Steve Pank.

Clara met people as they arrived and made sure everybody was comfortable, then the film was shown.  I always found the first of the two video cassette tapes to be the better probably because I was more involved with the events that were shown.  I was very impressed with both Green Britain and Clara's event.

It was great evening, the room was full and the feeling was relaxed.  I met Clara's parents, who tuned out to be followers of Prem Rawat, as was I.  I also met Sheriff who said he was planning to open a coffeeshop.

Outside the room, in the street, was much more tense, with heavy looking bouncers on the doors of pubs and clubs.  I had the feeling it was not a great place to be late on a weekend evening.

I was glad not to have to hang around the city centre though.


Lezley suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and calls for the legalisation of cannabis for both medical and recreational use.
She was instrumental in the formation of THC4MS and was among the first successful medical necessity defences against cannabis charges.

In December 2006, Lezley was tried before a jury at Carlisle Crown Court, along with her husband Mark Gibson and Marcus Davies of THC4MS, for conspiracy to supply cannabis in the form of free bars of chocolate to sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis. The three had readily admitted to supplying over 35,000 bars over two years. The judge instructed the jury that they had no defence in law and that medical value was irrelevant – the written testimonials of over 1000 clients were not allowed before the jury. Possibly unaware of the Rights of the Jury to rule the law had been misapplied and following the instructions of the judge the guilty verdict was returned. A tragedy of justice which has led to suffering for many people.

On January 26, 2007, British Justice went completely berserk when Lezley was given a 9-month prison sentence along with husband Mark and Marcus Davies, the sentences suspended for two years.


I first met Marcus in 2000, when he stood as a local election candidate in Peterborough.  A committed activist, he helped greatly by hosting the LCA web site for several years.  He also played an important role in helping Mark Gibson with THC4MS: Marcus ended up on a suspended prison sentence for helping literally tens of thousands of people suffering from ailments such as Multiple Sclerosis by posting them free cannabis-laced chocolates.  It is indeed sad when people like Marcus and Mark and Lezley Gibson are punished for easing other people's suffering with a plant – at no cost!


Carl lived and worked in Hull and was keen to join the LCA as soon as he heard of it.  He has always been a hard-working and dedicated campaigner, showing respect and consideration.

Carl stood for the LCA in very election in Hull that he could; he fought the local elections in 2003, 2004 and 2006; parliamentary elections in 2001 and 2005.

Carl also wrote and had published many letters in the Hull Daily Mail.

Carl opened his small shop, "Divine Herb"in Hull, selling hemp products and used that as abase for his campaigning.


We realised that police were prepared spend thousands of pounds sitting outside cafés to prevent people from getting their safe and beneficial plant – and we realised that Worthing journalists could not spell "Coffeeshop".

In London, in the corridors of booze and power, the Government were still preparing to downgrade cannabis.

Cannabis reclassification will support focus on hard drugs
10 Downing Street Press Release
Friday 12 Sep 2003

Steps to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug moved a step closer today as the Home Secretary David Blunkett underlined Government support for police strategies to combat the most harmful drugs. If approved by Parliament, cannabis will be reclassified in January.  It will remain illegal, but the reclassification will enable police to target hard drugs like heroin and crack/cocaine which cause the most harm to users, their families and communities. "The Government is determined to support the police in tackling the problem of drug abuse with an effective and realistic approach," said the Home Secretary. The decision to reclassify cannabis follows the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.  This is a body of scientific and medical experts who advised that cannabis is harmful, but less harmful than other Class B drugs like amphetamines. Guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers says that after reclassification, most offences of cannabis possession by adults will result in a police warning and confiscation of the drug.  There will be a presumption against arrest, except where public order is at risk or where children are vulnerable. The maximum penalty for the supply of or possession with intent to supply cannabis will stay at its current level of 14 years. The Home Secretary said that the proposal is just one part of an updated drugs strategy which is seeing investment in tackling drugs increase by half a billion pounds over the next three years.  The Government also announced plans this week to pilot a new drug education programme in schools.


I first came across Winston Matthews at a Smokey Bears picnic in Southsea.

Smokey Bears picnics were exactly that – us "Bears" would gather in a park and toke.  In this case it was on the common.

Southsea had hosted picnics for several years.  Nobody knew who organised it; word spread and people turned up, sometimes just dozens, sometimes hundreds.

Sometimes police decided to interfere with our harmless fun, other times just sit and watch, maybe pick one or two people out for searching as they left the Common.  They'd end up in court with a small fine to pay – it was a waste of public money and really it ought to have been the police that were fined.

Eight of us went from Norwich to Southsea in two cars.  We arrived early, enjoyed wondering around the seafront and then went to the Common, which is quite large, and right there in the centre were about 100 people.  We could see police vans at various points around the Common.

It wasn't until many people had left that police acted, charging in.

They tried to arrest and search Chris Baldwin who was in his wheelchair – he wasn't hiding his weed!

Suddenly I heard shouting, then I saw police wrestling a man to the ground – it was Winston, shouting "Leave that man alone with his medicine!".

A circle of people formed, linking arms, to try to stop police wrestling Winston and arresting Chris.

Well, actually, it wasn't a circler – it was  circle broken in several places.

I had joined in and linked arms then realised there were just six of us in our group – hardly able to stop the dozens of police with dogs too.

Then I felt a tap on the shoulder and one policeman said to me "Excuse me Sir" and tried to barge through.
I said "Go round!".

He did.

I don't remember if it was later that day or the next year, when police came amongst us again.  There were about twenty of us left on the grass; a couple of locals quite drunk; Derrick Large was there and had his bag stolen.  It was also always windy there, when I went.

The police came with dogs and face-recognition cameras.  I watched the officer with the camera and another walking towards me, shooting film of my face, but sudden;y they turned away and headed for Don Barnard, again turning away.  They focussed on Lyndon Pugh, author of CCNEWS, and again turned away.  They left the three of us alone and started trying to search others, mostly the younger looking ones.  Seems nobody had any drugs that day as there were no arrests.

Don said to me ;"Did you see that?  They know us and are leaving us alone."

The police left and we carried on toking in the wind.

That was the first time I met Winston and he has always been a stalwart in the campaign although not always getting on with everybody.  Winston had suffered an accident and hurt his back so was often in intense pain but he was always there, at every conference, protest, picnic, court case, coffeeshop or meeting, signing every petition and helping where he could


On May 3rd 2003, we all came together at the Third Annual Cannabis March and Brocklwell Park festival in London, and several of us including myself, Don Barnard, Steve Pank, Patman and many others made speeches.
It was a terrific event, with many thousands of people attending, little trouble, very few arrests and grinning coppers.  It was organised by Chris Saunders and Shane Collins – stalls, bands, games and fun for all.


Also in 2003, we gained a new member to the LCA Executive – Clara O'Donnell, who was to be s stalwart in the campaign.  She was to produce many pages for us, for magazines like Weed World and Red Eye Express.  She joined a team of myself, Don Barnard, Hugh Robertson our treasurer and Chris Baldwin.


Mark Gibson

On May 18th 2003, we were entertained by Mark Gibson who was driving, representing the LCA, in Top Gear's "Fastest Political Party" show: he was to do a time trial against people from the Greens, Lib Dems, Labour, Conservatives and Monster Raving Loonies.  Mark came second to the Lib Dems (their driver had previously been a professional).  Mark's face was a treasure as the result was announced.  "In official opposition, the Legalise Cannabis Alliance".  We heard the biggest cheer of them all from the audience.  Mark looked pretty stoned to me – and he wasn't the only one!


Biz Ivol was an MS sufferer living in Orkney.  She had discovered that cannabis was helpful in easing the pain and symptoms of MS.  But unlike many people, Biz proved herself to be exceptionally brave by producing cannabis-laced chocolate bars for her friend Bill, who never smoked and also suffered MS.  It worked for Bill.

The results were literally astounding and Biz took her cause to the press.  She had been mentioned in several local and national papers and then she was busted.

In 2003, on July 2nd  several of us journeyed to Orkney to support her in her court case.  I travelled with Don Barnard, flying to Aberdeen from Norwich, where we met up with Lezley and Mark Gibson along with Chris Baldwin from Worthing, and Clara and Rob O'Donnell from Nuneaton and we caught the boat to Kirkwall.

I doubt whether any cabin on that boat had ever seen so much cannabis smoke.  It made for a pleasant if not tiring boat ride.  I don't remember much about it except that I became very worried in case we were busted on board – we'd probably have been thrown over!

Biz had threatened to end her life as she said it was unbearable without cannabis. She was very angry that her case had been dropped and she would not get her chance in court.   We did not know about this until the day we arrived in Orkney.  Mark and Lezley had gone to camp in biz's garden,a s she had suggested; Don and I were in a bed and breakfast.  But the boat was late and Biz had assumed we were not coming and had tried to take an overdose.

MS sufferer maintains suicide threat as drug case is dropped

Stephen Stewart and Keith Sinclair
The Herald, Glasgow
Wednesday 02 July 2003

A terminally ill cannabis campaigner said yesterday she will commit suicide despite hearing that the criminal case against her will be dropped. Biz Ivol, who suffers from MS, was arrested two years ago following allegations that she was supplying cannabis to other people with the debilitating disease across the UK. It is believed Ms Ivol's agents notified her that the case, due to call at Kirkwall Sheriff Court in Orkney today, would not proceed further because of the deterioration of her health. Ms Ivol said that she would continue with plans to end her life after her symptoms worsened during the court case, which attracted widespread media attention to the medicinal use of cannabis. "People with MS must avoid stress and over the last 18 months I have lost my balance, my eyesight, and I am paralysed from the chest down," she said.  "I have been kept in limbo for two years since the day I was raided.  I am not pleased that the case will be dropped and I am still very cross. "I was willing to take my case to the higher courts and the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary, but they knew that they wouldn't stand a chance.  I regret making the sheriff and the fiscal go through all this but I am not sorry for what I did." Ms Ivol has received hundreds of letters offering support but was unable to reply after losing the use of her hands.  She has always made clear her intention to end her life as her physical condition declined. "The plans are all made.  I don't want to fight on much longer.  I did plan to walk into the sea but now I can't use my legs.  I have made the arrangements and have bought a plot of land for a grave," she said.  "I am just too tired to fight on much longer.  I can't start a fight to recognise euthanasia." Ms Ivol had entered not guilty pleas to three charges involving the possession, production and supply of cannabis. Last night, cannabis campaigners welcomed the decision to abandon the case. Jim McLeavy, spokesman for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance from East Kilbride, said yesterday : "I think the Crown Office is doing a U-turn in this case because they are embarrassed and ashamed at taking action against a dying woman. "I welcome the fact that they have apparently seen sense, even at this late stage, but it should never have come to this.  They should never have charged her or taken things this far.  All she was doing was trying to help other MS sufferers."He added: "She has had two years of misery and the legal action taken against her has not helped her health and probably made it worse.  I feel for her.  She has done a very positive thing and stood up to this bad law even when she is terminally ill and I think she has been very, very brave."Steve Barker, administrator of the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis based in Norwich, said: "Biz Ivol is a remarkable woman.  I have spoken to her several times and there were many people from the south of England planning to attend the trial. "However, I hope that her case has made people take notice of the medical values of cannabis in helping relieve the symptoms of people who are ill, many terminally like her. "Cannabis has been proved by medical trials to be twice as effective as prescribed painkillers, with less side-effects, and Biz Ivol's case has highlighted this.  It's a pity she has had to suffer so much in the process."

When we were all awake, we heard the news, made contact with each other and rushed to the hospital to see Biz.  Bless her, she was half asleep but pleased to see us.  "I thought you weren't coming," she'd said, "so I decided to take the pills.  But I couldn't even do that properly, I dropped most of them and couldn't pick them up".

Next day she told Chris that she thought it had been a dream.

It was indeed sad that Biz was driven to such desperation, forced to sit through the Prosecution case that made her look like a hardened criminal (like me) and then not allowed to have her say.  Although we were pleased in some ways that the case had been dropped, it was for the wrong reasons, and we were sad for Biz.  She did, however, make the TV news and the National Press.

Don and I called into the offices of the Press and Journal in Inverness, on our way back to Aberdeen by bus.  We did that and many more press and radio interviews over the following months.


Chris Baldwin, along with Winston Matthews and Mark Benson, was eventually taken to Winchester Crown Court where the Judge sentenced him to prison after commending him on the way the café had been run.

Eddie Ellison, the retired head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, said in the witness box that he had been pleased to see how the café had been run, trouble-free, clean, no children allowed, no alcohol. He said "Chris is not a good businessman, I would trust him with the lives of my children but not my business."

Group's support for trio at court
The Argus, Worthing
Saturday 29 Nov 2003

Protesters calling for the legalisation of cannabis staged a demonstration outside a court. About a dozen campaigners cheered and waved placards in support of three men who appeared at Chichester Crown Court. All three admitted drug offences in connection with an alleged Dutch-style cannabis caféChris Baldwin, 52, of Carnegie Close, Worthing, who ran the Quantum Leaf café and adjoining Bongchuffa shop in Rowlands Road, Worthing, and Mark Benson, 37, of Irene Avenue, Lancing, admitted allowing premises to be used for smoking cannabis on November 27th 2002. Winston Matthew, 46, of Court Lodge Road, Horley, also attended yesterday's hearing and admitted possessing more than 450g of cannabis with intent to supply.

Pro-Cannabis trader jailed
The Argus, Worthing
Saturday 10 Jan 2004
A disabled pro-cannabis campaigner has been jailed for six months after opening a Dutch-style coffee shop. Protesters wept and shouted:"You're sending a cripple to jail" when Chris Baldwin, 53, of Carnegie Close, Worthing, was imprisoned for his involvement in the notorious Quantum Leaf café in Rowlands Road, Worthing. Police had to clear Chichester Crown Court when some of the 30-strong group refused to leave the public gallery. During a series of police raids in November 2002, officers stormed the café, set in a back room of a smoking accessory shop called Bongchuffa.  Officers found an estimated £2000 worth of cannabis plus more than £4000 in cash. At yesterday's hearing, Judge John Sessions accepted Baldwin has opened the café as a political statement to encourage the Government to legalise the soon-to-be reclassified class B drug, and to provide free cannabis or people with painful health conditions. Peter Woodall, in mitigation, said further cannabis possession offences were due to Baldwin suffering from spastic paraplegia since the age of seven. The campaigner, who stood for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) in the 1997 General Election, used marijuana to alleviate his consequent leg spasms. Former Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent, Edward Ellison, who served in the drug squad for seven years and had met Baldwin at LCA marches, spoke as a character witness. However, the judge said ignoring Baldwin's two previous suspended sentences for other drug offences would make a "mockery of the law". He said," With considerable reluctance, I have no alternative to a custodial sentence, which I have reduced to take into account the impending reclassification of sentencing." Baldwin had pleaded guilty to allowing cannabis to be used at a property, possession with intent to supply cannabis and possession of cannabis. Before the hearing, he said," I'd written hundreds of letters to the Home Office, went to every pro cannabis rally, march and meeting, and lobbied Parliament.  I felt a coffee shop was at the sharp end of the political campaign." Mark Benson, 37, of Irene Avenue, Lancing, who worked at the Bongchuffa shop, pleaded guilty to permitting cannabis to be used in the premises and cultivating cannabis plants.  He was given a four month curfew order. Winston Matthews, 47, of Court Lodge Road, Horley, was given a suspended four month jail term after he admitted possession of cannabis with intent to supply, supplying cannabis, possession and cultivation of cannabis.
I wrote a letter:

Law Before Justice
Alun Buffry
Letters, The Argus, Worthing
Tuesday 13 Jan 2004

I recently attended the sentencing of Chris Baldwin at Chichester Crown Court("Pro-cannabis trader jailed", The Argus, January 10).I was confused that Mr Baldwin was being sent to prison after what amounted to a glowing summation of his character. The Judge described him as "honest", "sincere", with a "genuine belief in his medical need for cannabis after 30 years of suffering ... and honest commitment to try to persuade the Government to change the law."He said the cannabis cafés managed by Mr Baldwin were run with strict rules (age restrictions, no alcohol or hard drugs), caused no nuisance to locals and were politically-driven rather money-orientated. Judge Sessions also referred to the other two co-defendants (Winston Matthews and Mark Benson) as sincere with a genuine belief in the medicinal value of cannabis for their pain.  They were given suspended sentences and curfew respectively. However, Mr Baldwin was already on a suspended sentence for previous victimless cannabis offences and it seemed the judge felt his hands were tied by the law and he was forced to bring that sentence into effect, although reducing it. That just about sums up the case - the interests of the law are apparently above the interests of the public and of justice.

How can it be just to send to prison an honest and sincere crippled man who not only has no victims to his so-called crimes, but has a massive amount of support from those in pain who he helped gain some relief beyond that provided by conventional pharmaceutical drugs?There is something wrong not only with the law against cannabis but with the legal system in general when law comes before justice. -Alun Buffry, Norwich

So Chris was carted off to prison with his crutches.  He told us that he was not treated well, that his vegan diet was not adequate, and that he struggled to get around.

There were protests outside Parliament, claiming Chris was "Healer not Dealer"   Chris had used what profits he made to give away cannabis to people in urgent medical need.

Supporters from Worthing and others also gathered on Parliament Square in London, where I joined them.  We had banners which were clearly visible to the passing traffic and it was unbelievable how many horns were hooted in support, from cars but also taxis, buses, trucks -  that day it seemed like half the drivers in London supported us.

The banners they raw read "Free Chris Baldwin – Cannabis Healer Not Dealer."

Chris was released afters serving several weeks in prison, to carry on his sentence outside.

Winston Matthews was given a suspended sentence.  It meant neither Chris nor Winston would be able to stand in local elections.

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