Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jun 2003
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Huw Borland
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Residents are furious at a controversial celebration to mark the first
anniversary of alleged cannabis cafes in Worthing.

Staff at Buddy's, in Brougham Road, had invited MPs, councillors and
dignitaries to view their premises.

The enterprise and other alleged Dutch-style cafes have been repeatedly
raided by police but two sites are still up and running.

Cafe staff insist they provide a much-need community service but Colin
Gregg, of the East Worthing Action Group, is disgusted.

He said: "This is an absolute disgrace. The police and local authorities
should have done something about this a long time ago.

"You have the feeling, with cannabis about to be downgraded in a few months,
that east Worthing has been sold down the river.

"Police have done several raids but nothing has been effective. The owners
are just given back the keys each time. Each time they are raided they are
back to work within 10 minutes - it has been a waste of everybody's money.

"Whatever your views on cannabis are, whether it should be legalised or not,
it is illegal and should not be allowed."

Detective Inspector Nigel Brown is heading Operation Harrow, which is
investigating the alleged cannabis cafes.

He said: "I am disappointed that this is being celebrated. We are working
hard to shut such cafes down.

"The Bongchuffa cafe in Rowlands Road was shut down last year and last month
another in Victoria Road was successfully closed. However, our information
is that this has now reopened. But our investigations continue."

Sarah Chalk, who works at Buddy's, said a 1,000-signature petition from
customers supporting the cafes would be on show during the open day, as well
as a 100-strong petition by nearby residents and shop owners.

She said a lot of people in the vicinity appreciated the cafe's community
work, which included maintenance of neighbouring shops. Ms Chalk became
involved in the controversial cafes after one opened in Worthing town

She said: "I have had a couple of discussions with people outside the cafe
saying that it's bringing the neighbourhood down and to go away from east

"My answer is to invite them in and see the place before they judge. Not
many have taken us up on that offer but one couple came in and left with a
slightly different opinion."

A number of people have been charged with drug offences in relation to the
cafes and their cases are making their way through the courts.
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