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UK Coffee shop campaign

Around the turn of the millennium there was a real feeling of change in the air with regard to cannabis and several attempts to set up "coffeeshops" - actually better described as cannabis pubs - were made.

As we found out though, the change in the law when cannabis became a class C drug didn't mean anything in practice and the government decided that cannabis users would have to continue to fund the growing illegal market, often provided by organised crime.

This is the story of the first wave of cannabis coffeeshops which opened at the turn of the century.

As 2002 drew to a close, four such places in London and Worthing were raided by large numbers of police, who had seemingly been ignoring the establishments for months. These places were hardly a secret locally, so the sudden heavy handed attitude of the police is hard to understand.

This daft situation has come about because David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, made a mess of his much trailed reforms of the law against Cannabis. This story was to run from 2001 and into 2004

Other than this introduction this section hasn't been updated since 2004, when all the old pages were brought together.

2008 update:

UKCIA has, up to now, been under the impression that "The Dutch Experience" was the first cananbis coffeeshop project in the UK, well it seems we were wrong, the first actually opperated between 1994 qnd 1996 in Stoke On Trent. - Dreadheads

30 years of Coffee shops in Holland

It's very over 30 years now since Holland allowed the famous "Coffeeshops" to open, places where cannabis can be legally bought and used.

In those 30 years, the country has not descended into a drug crazed depravity, indeed quite the opposite seems to have happened. Read the account by Nol van Schaik, cofounder of the Dutch Experience


Coffee shops archive


The Dutch Experience - Stockport

Bornmouth - DE2




Dutch Experience logo - click to visit their site

December 2002

As soon as it became clear that the law against cannabis really was beginning to fall apart, people began asking the obvious question - "How is cannabis going to be supplied". Around the middle of 2001 plans were made to open "coffee shops" based on the successful and highly popular Dutch shops.

Of course, this is a red flag to the drug warriors, those who still believe that cannabis prohibition is a good thing. Strange as it may seem there are still people who think that and sadly, the Home Secretary David Blunkett seems to be one of them. Although he has been forced to propose a reduction in penalties he still thinks the prohibition can be continued and has tried to rule out the idea, preferring instead to keep organised crime in control of the cannabis market.

There are though a number of people around the country who see this as plain daft, which of course it is and they've decided to try and do something about it. The movement to create coffee shops really began on 15th September 2001 with the opening of the "Dutch Experience" in Stockport, Manchester. This extraordinary story is still unfolding.

Visit the Greenhouse Organisation website - click here

Our cannabis café will open sometime soon, somewhere not too far from Central London. If we can't be precise we hope you'll understand why. Partly it's because we don't want to reveal all of our plans yet. Also it's because these plans are somewhat subject to how the authorities respond.

But only somewhat. What we do know is we will open it. Even if this means breaking the law. Britain needs cannabis cafés. Cannabis smokers need them and society in general needs them.

We will not sell cannabis ourselves, nor will we permit it - or any other drug - to be sold on our premises. All we'll be doing is allowing people to smoke and that, apparently, is a crime.

We do not intend to be confrontational. Our aim is to provide the most responsible environment in which cannabis can be consumed. We welcome discussions on how to best achieve this on our forums on our website.

There are no good reasons why cannabis should remain illegal. There are no benefits to society for keeping it so. None. Not a single one. Instead prohibition costs society a fortune, damaging far more lives than the drug ever has.

Following the Dutch Experience, as time goes on, a substantial number of small local coffeeshops are opening quitely, without any publicity. UKCIA does not intend to document the entire scene - understandably many of these enterprises are "underground" in nature, but below are links and information about a few, both planned and opened.

Bournemouth - DE2

This south coast town was the second place to have a coffee shop - the Dutch Experience 2 (DE 2), which opened an industrial estate in Boscombe.. There was frantic activity in the run-up to opening and the shop attracted a lot of attention from the media and its owner, Jimmy Ward, was happy to milk the publicity.

The result was a very popular venue which soon attracted a lot of customers. However, the local police, spurred on by prohibition supporting local councillors raided the shop in early May, less than a month after it opened. The raid involved some 60 officers in what can only be described as an over the top show of force.

The landlord has now served an eviction notice on Jimmy.

Read the report from the BBC


A coffee shop later opened in Accrington, Lancashire. Called the "Dutch Way" it was ran by Frank Mac, and his wife Margaret. It opened above their existing business in Warner Street, a tattoo parlour called Studio One. After some planning permission issues were resolved with the council, it was clear from a petition of over 1000 signatures,to be given to Prime Minister Tony Blair, from local residents and traders, that there was support for such a venture.

A police raid took place on the 10th October 2002, arresting one man for possession of cannabis. This did not close the coffeeshop - rather it intensified Mr Mac's resolve, who said "We must stand up for our rights. It's business as usual. It's war." and called for a mass demonstration in support of the legalisation of cannabis and introduction of coffee shops.

The enterprise had the support of at least some of the local councillors. Hyndburn councillor John Burke has been quoted as saying "I think it [cannabis] should be legalised and taxed. It would also take it away from the streets and put it into an environment like this [coffee shop] which is more adult based." He has joined forces with fellow councillor David Myles to call for an overhaul of drug legislation and to encourage local MPs to read and sign the Angel Decleration which seeks the outright repeal of drugs prohibition.


Former LCA candidate Chris Baldwin and associates went a step further and opened 2 coffeeshops in Worthing, a town on the South Coast of England. The first, Quantum Leaf, has been repeatedly raided and forced to close down, but Buddy's stayed open for business for some time before finally being shut down.

A brief account of the Quantum Leaf's battles, Chris' ongoing trial and the plentiful support of protesters from Worthing and beyond

The second, Buddies, was forced to close in August 2003 due to a week long police 'seige' , but not before it celebrated its first birthday on the 26th June 2003

Sahra Chalk telling the story of the Worthing coffeeshops Sept 2003 - 3.41MB MP3

Worthing coffeeshop - The verdict

From the LCA exec 9th January 2004

The Worthing coffeeshop court case has finished and sentence has been passed.

Chris Baldwin: 6 month sentence as a result of a previous suspended sentence of 15 months and 3 x 6 month sentences concurrent to that. The Judge has said he must not serve more than half of this (3 months) and that he had no alternative but to put him into custody.

Winston Mathews: 4x4 month suspended sentences, including possession of 1/4 kilo of grass and 1/4 kilo of hash and 2 cases of selling £10 deals to undercover police in the coffee shop.

Mark Benson: 6 months 12 hours curfew, for being involved with the running of the coffee shop.

None of them got any sentence or punishment for possession or personal amounts or for the cultivation of plants for medical and recreational use.

The Judge said "They should all be given credit for their guilty pleas" he
accepted there was NO monetary motivation and accepted that they were all medical users and that they will probably continue to be, he said "Chris Baldwin was a sincere and honest person".

Worthing campaigners show support for Chris Baldwin

Whitehall, London 21st January 2004

A demonstration by friends and supporters of Chris Baldwin took place on Wednesday 21st January. Chris is serving a prison sentence as a result of his involvement with the Worthing coffeeshop project.

This report is just in from LCA member Sarah Chalk:

We(Dottie, Trev, Andy and myself) arrived, slightly late, to find the demo in full swing.

Immediately we were told that the media had been swarming to do interviews, most of the big news channels did interviews, with various demonstrators. The mood was great and I think we achieved our objective - to highlight Chris Baldwin's plight in HMP Highdown. The interviews continued, with Dottie Baldwin (age 81) receiving the attention she so rightly deserves. Before I arrived, one demonstrator was approached by the police and searched because he was smoking a joint. He had cannabis on him and the police confiscated it, but allowed him to continue demonstrating.(I am sure that Winston will fill you in on the detail).

On the whole, the police were very pleasant and thanked us for our co-operation. We moved down to Parliament Square, where we continued to demonstrate with many car horns tooting as they drove past. We left early, but a group of demonstrators remained, shouting their support for Chris Baldwin.


Chris Baldwin

Chris Baldwin addressing the LCA conference in 2003

Chris has suffered from spastic paraplegia since the age of seven, which causes leg tremors and he uses cannabis to ease these symptoms. We understand that because he has had no medicine since Friday, he is in quite a lot of discomfort.

He is now a free man again and is clear of all outstanding charges in relation to the coffeeshop experiment.

Purple Haze cafe raided

February 2004

Two men and a woman were arrested for alleged possession of cannabis at the Purple Haze Cafe in Edinburgh. It is understood that Paul Stewart, the owner of the café in Leith, was one of the three arrested.

Mr Stewart said he wanted to highlight the discrepancy between the way that the reclassification of the drug was being implemented on different sides of the border.

"In the rest of the UK the presumption of arrest has been taken away, but that presumption still remains in Scotland," he said.

Scottish Socialist Party MSPs Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne signed up to become members of the cafe.

Full story - BBConline

The cafe closed a few weeks later.


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