Pubdate: Thu, 25 Apr 2002
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Section: G2
Author: Mark Mace


An Amsterdam-style cafe where people openly smoke cannabis has opened in, 
of all places, Bournemouth. Mark Mace went to check it out

You wouldn't expect a Bournemouth policeman to give you directions to 
Britain's second cannabis cafe but, if you ask politely, they will point 
you towards the industrial estate on Boscombe station approach, where you 
will find the Dutch Experience 2.

Bournemouth is traditionally known for its pleasant climate, affordable 
bungalows and sandy beaches, and was once considered a haven for 
pensioners. But the Dorset town has recently undergone a change of pace 
and, with its vibrant club scene and large student population, is becoming 
a favourite destination for many of London's weekend revellers, not to 
mention its pot smokers.

The Dutch Experience 2, (DE2), was opened on April Fools' Day - with 
professional advice from the local council and with little attention from 
the local police - and it has been busy selling teas, coffees and dope 
paraphernalia for nigh on a month. What it doesn't do is actually sell 
dope, instead it exploits the unofficial "relaxing" of laws in relation to 
cannabis to give people a place where they can go to smoke it. You'll know 
it when you get there. It has the look of a Wendy house put together by an 
apathetic kid with little touches of artistic individuality that suggest 
either genius or madness. It is quaintly cute. Outside, on the small, 
shaded patio, a man rolls a joint. Inside, the cafe bears a closer 
resemblance to a roadside greasy spoon than a Costa Coffee. All of the 
conversion work has been done by volunteers. One wall is devoted to the 
"Free Colin Davies" campaign. Davies, the owner of the first Dutch 
Experience cafe in Stockport, is currently residing at her majesty's 
pleasure in HMP Strangeways after being arrested on the first day of 
trading. His cafe is still open.

The obligatory "No Victim, No Crime" poster is displayed beside another 
urging "If anyone offers you hard drugs tell a member of staff". The house 
rules are clear: "No under 18s, no police officers, no alcohol, no 
recording equipment and no unreasonable behaviour."

Bob Windsor, 47, a graphic designer and a veteran of Amsterdam and 
Maastricht coffee shops is on his third visit to the cafe. "The rules are 
cool and people stick to them. I was here at closing time one night and 
they said, 'That's it, we're shut,' and everybody just got up and left. 
You'd never see that in a pub." James, the volunteer barman, is also keen 
for the cause. "The people who come in are aged 18 to 80. A lot of them 
come in wanting to know about hemp, seed lists, medical information and to 
find out whether we're criminals. We're trying to put a legitimate face on 
something that is not harmful if taken in a legal way."

DE2's owner, Jim Ward, 29, insists that the rules of the shop and his 
customers' understanding of the profound nature of the experiment will mean 
that this venture will be a success both locally and nationally. "I've 
wanted to set up this cafe for 14 years," he explains. "It's a genuine 
service. In Amsterdam, coffee shops have reduced the crime rate and the 
number of addicts. We aim to break the link between soft and hard drugs. On 
the second day that we were open we caught a heroin dealer in the cafe with 
60 wraps. We called the police and handed him over.

"We are only open until 10pm and we ask our members to respect our 
neighbours when leaving. We are determined to make this work as a 
legitimate business. In time I believe there will be more cannabis cafes 
around the country."

The cafe is situated close to a primary school, as well as two drug 
rehabilitation centres. In the local newsagents the staff express concern 
about location of DE2. But its opening has not been entirely negative, adds 
the manager with a grin. "We do sell them a lot of sweets.I don't think 
we've had any problems from them - more trouble with the football fans."

In a nearby hi-fi shop, the owner, Mark Jericovic, admits that he is 
curious about the cafe: "I might go down for a cup of tea and see what the 
kerfuffle is about."

One of his customers is not so keen. Jacqui Fogg, 32, works for an 
education centre which educates children about drug misuse. It has visited 
the primary school near DE2 in the past. "How will it look if they see 
their mates or maybe even their parents going in there? I think there is a 
lot of confusion about cannabis. People don't know if it is illegal or not. 
I don't approve of these shops at all." At present there are plans for a 
dozen more cafes across the country, including Liverpool, Preston, Rhyl and 
London. Some commentators believe that the home secretary, David Blunkett, 
is assessing the two cannabis cafes to find "best practice" ahead of the 
quasi-decriminalisation of cannabis which is expected later this summer.

DE2 has so far avoided being raided by the Dorset police. As DCI Colin 
Stanger explains: "We target dealers and users of more harmful Class A 
drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, but clearly we will not tolerate the 
dealing in and use of cannabis because it is an offence and our duty is to 
enforce the law." Nevertheless, on top of asking a bobby for directions to 
DE2, you can even ask: "If I get really stoned and I need a cab?" and he'll 
point you towards a local taxi rank and bid you a pleasant day.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom