Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jun 2002
Source: Edinburgh Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Brian Ferguson


SCOTLAND'S first cannabis cafe could be set to open in Edinburgh
within weeks, according to the city publisher trying to get the
venture off the ground.

Kevin Williamson, who founded publishing firm Rebel Inc, has already
launched a recruitment drive for the coffee shop, based on Amsterdam's
famous attractions.

He has also revealed plans to host live comedy, film shows, drama
productions and DJ nights at the members-only establishment.

Job adverts taken out for the Rebel Inc coffee shop state the
"groundbreaking" project will be a place where cannabis will be able
to be "openly consumed and purchased".

Mr Williamson, who is setting up the cafe with a number of unnamed
backers, told the Evening News three sites in central Edinburgh had
been earmarked.

He has pledged the name and the opening date for the venture will be
revealed at the beginning of next month if the Government announces a
change in the law surrounding cannabis.

Home Secretary David Blunkett is widely expected to rubber-stamp the
recommendation from a House of Commons select committee report that
cannabis be reclassified from a class B to a class C drug.

Mr Williamson said he would hold a press conference almost immediately
if the reclassification of cannabis is given the go-ahead.

He said: "We're getting very close. We're not going to go ahead with
anything until there's an announcement but as soon as that happens
we'll be ready to make an announcement.

"What we believe is that if there's a change in the law so that people
will not be arrested for possession of cannabis then that will be
enough for the coffee shop to open up.

"We'll be taking legal advice before we do anything, but the idea is
this will be an experiment on how cannabis can be taken out of the
black market."

It is thought Cockburn Street, Victoria Street and Broughton Street
have been considered.

Mr Williamson has repeatedly refused to disclose which sites are being
considered but pledged to consult fully with local businesses and
residents in the area that is selected, adding: "We don't want to
foist this on anyone."

He added: "We've been inundated with more than 100 e-mails in response
to a job advert last week. The whole idea seems to have captured the
imagination of a lot of people.

"Around eight staff will be taken on to work in the cafe and to look
after things like memberships, but we're also looking for people
interested in helping set it up and help promote it.

"We've always had the intention of the coffee shop being a cultural
place and the idea is to have special nights on now and again for the
likes of comedy, music and DJ-ing.

"We're looking for talented, imaginative and enthusiastic individuals
who want to get involved with it, but what we need most is enthusiasm
and a genuine commitment to challenging the hypocritical and unjust
cannabis laws."

The "menu" at the cannabis cafe - which will only be open to people
aged 18 and over - will offer at least eight different types of
cannabis with discounts being given to those with medical conditions.
Mr Williamson, who is drugs spokesman for the Scottish Socialist
Party, claims to have the support of a number of MSPs and MPs and has
previously said he is willing to risk jail by opening the venture.

However, Lothian and Borders Police chiefs have pointed out that under
current legislation officers would arrest anyone possessing or dealing
cannabis at the cafe.

Council leader Donald Anderson said: "Most people would agree that
cannabis is not as dangerous as alcohol or some of the more serious
drugs, but dealing in it is still an offence and I'd expect the police
to come down hard on them." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake