Pubdate: Fri, 31 Aug 2001
Source: London Evening Standard (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Laura Smith
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Brixton could see the first "cannabis cafes" in Britain under a plan 
that tests the new relaxed attitude to drugs to the limit.

The mood of sections of the community today appears in favour of 
Amsterdam's approach, as a series of debates is expected to show.

"This is not a decision for Lambeth alone," councillor Johanna 
Sherrington told the crowd at the first meeting at The Juice Bar, 
Coldharbour Lane. "The police have the ultimate say about these 
issues. We have got neighbours. We can't act in isolation. We haven't 
blocked anything that the police have done but that does not mean 
that we are pro-legalisation."

While she stressed that she had an "open mind" about drugs and that 
Lambeth's policy was to "watch and see", she said the Labour council 
was not in favour of legalising drugs and she warned the meeting: 
"Let's not forget that cannabis is illegal."

She said: "I don't think the police's decision to relax the laws is 
on ideological grounds. It is because of the reality that they can't 
fill the 80 or so posts. I think they've just said we can't deal with 
everything, so we are not going to deal with cannabis."

Police in Lambeth are not arresting people found with small amounts 
of cannabis, instead they issue a warning and confiscate the drugs. 
But at the first debate at the Juice Bar it was clear many felt this 
did not go far enough. They said the drug has been openly available 
in Brixton for decades and the majority at this week's debate saw 
cannabis cafes as the next logical step.

Alastair Williams, of Cannabis Action London, who organised the 
meeting, said cafes were a "socially responsible" approach. "It is 
within the power of the police authority to have pilot schemes and 
alternative ways of policing drugs in society," he said.

Pub landlord Martyn Cannan said: "Entrepreneurs should seize the 
moment. If a cafe is licensed and registered in a safe and correct 
manner you will know what you are going to buy. Those people who 
don't want to have anything to do with cannabis will know where not 
to go."

Brixton resident and Lambeth schools youth worker Michael Morris 
said: "The opening up of places where people come to smoke would 
release huge amounts of local government and central government 

There was widespread anger over the prevalence of dealers in hard 
drugs in the area and many at the meeting argued the opening of cafes 
might free police to deal with them.

Shane Collins, drugs spokesman for the Lambeth Green Party, said: 
"There should be licensed coffee shops for cannabis. We are not going 
to be given coffee shops by those people in suits. If we are going to 
have them we have got to take them and set them up."

Meeting organisers said Lambeth police declined to attend despite 
being invited. The next meeting is on Wednesday at 7pm at The Juice 
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