Pubdate: Sun, 16 Jun 2002
Source: Sunday Telegraph, The (Australia)
Contact:  2002 News Limited
Author: Matthew Bayley
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


THE lunchtime trade at the Karma Cafe was booming last Wednesday. The tables
were packed and at the counter, customers queued to get their orders in.

To one side of the counter, next to the coffee machine, the busy staff took
requests for cafe lattes, chicken sandwiches and mineral water. And on the
other, they sold cannabis. 

Almost three years to the day after being exposed by The Sunday Telegraph
for selling drugs, the coffee shop was back to its old tricks. 

"New name, same business," as one member of staff remarked. 

And if last week is anything to go by, business is booming. 

When the cafe was originally exposed in June 1999, then Police Minister Paul
Whelan promised to review laws in order to allow police to prosecute not
just the individuals involved in dealing, but the premises as well. 

However, the legislation has remained unchanged and the illegal trade
continues unchecked. 

In recent months, police in Kings Cross have carried out several
high-visibility operations against drug dealers, using sniffer dogs to
patrol local pubs and clubs. 

However, this operation is going on right under their noses. 

At first glance the small Roslyn St cafe is no different from any of
Sydney's coffee shops. Neat and clean, its large windows make it an ideal
place to watch the colourful life of the Cross saunter past. 

To the casual observer last week, it may have felt more like Starbucks than
one of the famous Dutch coffee houses that it's predecessor based itself

Lunchtime customers chatted idly, drinking coffee and eating sandwiches,
while a Led Zeppelin album played in the background. Magazines and
newspapers were stacked tidily on a book shelf. 

Signs that the cafe has other interests are there, however, with old Cafe
Amsterdam signs decorating one wall, and after a while the additional trade
the cafe is doing becomes obvious. 

In little over an hour, a reporter from The Sunday Telegraph saw evidence of
at least four drug deals over the counter. One by one, customers with no
clear interest in the menu came in, standing in the narrow gap between the
counter and the till. They made their orders in low voices next to the cake

"Just a 25, thanks," one was heard to say to the blonde waiter. 

First was a bearded man with a ponytail in his late 40s. Next came a younger
man in a brown leather jacket. A couple then walked in and enjoyed a
chocolate ice drink after making their purchase. 

Shortly afterwards, a man in his 20s came in, went to the counter and sat
down a few minutes later at one of the tables, placing a see-through bag of
what appeared to be cannabis in full view of customers and staff. 

The man then began to painstakingly construct a cannabis cigarette, before
joining in a conversation on drugs with the couple at the neighbouring

"Is it decriminalised like it is in Adelaide?" asked the woman, referring to
South Australia's relaxed drug laws. 

The man with the joint revealed he has previously been cautioned by the
police after being caught with cannabis. 

"Put it in your sock," advised the other man. 

"It's a pretty cool arrangement," the man remarked as he lit up the

"Especially if you want to get on it during the day." 

However, after several minutes of smoking the waiter spotted him and became
agitated: "Mate, you can't actually smoke it in here anymore," he told the

"It's not the Amsterdam anymore. Just go round the corner." 

The customer apologised, and left the cafe, saying he had not been there for
several months. 

The operation is certainly not as open as before, when customers were
actively offered drugs and people smoked openly within the cafe. Gone, for
example, is the sign which used to hang in the window saying: "What a great

But, to those who knew what they were looking for it was very much business
as usual. 

Last week, two staff members from The Sunday Telegraph were able to purchase
two bags of marijuana over the counter. 

In June 2000, NSW police did apply to have the premises declared "a
disorderly house", which would have granted officers the right to enter and
search the cafe without a warrant. 

However, the case was abandoned in April last year after the police and the
building's owners, Bernd Rosenberg and Josef Zangerl, came to an agreement. 

However, a title search of the property reveals the cafe's lease is still
held by Editha Ziric, the previous owner of Cafe Amsterdam. 

Mrs Ziric was convicted in 1998 of possessing cash suspected of being the
proceeds of crime and was fined $250. Her husband Michael was sentenced to
seven months weekend jail in 1999 for supplying a prohibited drug at the

Cannabis is the most widely used drug in Australia, according to a National
Drug Household Survey. 

About 39 per cent of people reported using marijuana at some time, with 18
per cent having used it in the past 12 months. 

But a recent survey revealed 60 per cent of Australians still believe the
drug should remain illegal. 

Supplying cannabis carries stiff maximum jail sentences. Under the law, even
selling small amounts can theoretically earn a maximum 10-year jail offence.
Anyone caught selling marijuana to a person under 16 faces a maximum 25 year
jail sentence.
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