Pubdate: Sat, 17 Jul 2004
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Huw Borland
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


A jailed cannabis cafe owner walked from court without having to pay a
UKP 100,000 bill. Christopher Baldwin, 53, was accused of making
thousands of pounds from his illegal venture.

He had already served six weeks in prison for his involvement in the
Amsterdam-style Quantum Leaf cafe in Worthing.

But new laws meant he was faced with paying back any money he made
from the business. Original estimates were that this could be UKP
113,000. However, Chichester Crown Court heard it was unclear after
examining the cafe's accounts what profit had been made. Francis
Lloyd, prosecuting, said the figure could have been about UKP 78,222
but there were too many gaps in the cafe's accounts. Baldwin, who
campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis, had told an earlier
hearing that the Quantum Leaf, in Rowlands Road, was run as a
political statement and had left him in debt.

The court agreed a confiscation order of UKP 8,508 should be made, a
sum which had already been seized by police during raids at the cafe.
Baldwin, who suffers from spastic paraplegia and needs crutches to
walk, did not have to pay any more.

Outside court, Baldwin said: "I'm not a big tough guy or a big bad
criminal. "Some take attending court in their stride but it has been
pretty stressful. "I'm very pleased with the outcome. Justice has been
done because I did not make any money from the cafe - it was done for
political reasons." Quantum Leaf was in the back room of a smoking
accessories shop called Bongchuffa.

Police raided it on November 27, 2002, weeks after Baldwin publicly
announced he was opening the cafe.

Officers estimated UKP 2,000-worth of cannabis and more than UKP 4,000
in cash was seized in the raid.

The figures swelled as Worthing police mounted an intensive six-month
operation to stop blatant cannabis dealing.

Baldwin was eventually jailed at Chichester Crown Court on January 9
after pleading guilty to allowing cannabis to be used at a premises
and having cannabis with intent to supply.

Dozens of cannabis campaigners had attended each hearing, staging
noisy and colourful protests.

Baldwin said: "I have no regrets about what I did but I do apologise
for any inconvenience to Worthing.

"People are allowed to drink alcohol, which can cause a lot of social
harm. "If you look at the Dutch coffee shop system, police get called
to bars, not coffee shops.

"We showed people that it could work here too. The only time police
went to the Quantum Leaf was to raid it, not to sort out any
problems." Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield, Worthing district police
commander, said the cafe was not a political statement but organised
criminal activity making thousands of pounds every week.

Quantum Leaf sold 13 types of marijuana, hash cakes, ready-rolled
joints, sandwiches and soft drinks.

Baldwin has said he uses cannabis to counter the leg spasms he suffers
as a result of his disability. 
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