Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2004
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2004
Author: Brendan O'Brien
Cited: Purple Haze


The opening of Scotland's first 'hash cafe', the Purple Haze on
Portland Place in Leith, went off today with a bang, but without a
bong earlier this evening.

Quite a crowd, perhaps fifty people, had gathered outside the cafe for
the big event. At least a dozen of them must have been genuine
customers rather than part of the the massed ranks of media observers
not quite managing to blend into the background.

The official opening time was 4pm, but some wiser heads had
anticipated the inevitable media scuffle and had arrived earlier so
they could find a seat.

Inside the cafe, the space was packed to the brim, so much so that the
proprietors were operating a one-in, one-out policy if you could fight
your way through the throng.

Police presence was low-key. Two officers guarded the door, handing
out Lothian and Borders police flyers stating that cannabis was still
illegal and anyone smoking it would be arrested, all the time scanning
the crowd in the hope no-one was going to make a point. A van full of
their comrades was parked discreetly behind a nearby hotel just in
case the cannabis crowd became, er, lively and caused trouble.

The wait to get in looked set to be a long one so I nervously rolled
myself a cigarette under the wary nose of an awkward policeman, my
nerves not helped when one wag in the crowd shouted out "pass it around."

The cafe operates a strict no smoking policy so there was no chance of
a puff inside, nor does it sell anything illegal on the premises.
Instead, its aim is to encourage a healthier habit by promoting pipes.

I stood beside a young man - who claimed to be from the Royal Military
Police - who declared he would "roll a joint in front of the police
just to make a point." Brushing aside my comments that this would
probably lead to trouble, he said was sticking to his principles
because, although he said he doesn't actually smoke it himself, his
father suffers from MS and smokes cannabis to relieve the pain.

After about a quarter of an hour, Scottish Socialist leader Tommy
Sheridan came out to make a short speech to the cheers of the crowd
and the camera lenses of the media. Tommy - not a smoker himself -
declared his solidarity with cannabis smokers saying that "drug use
should not be encouraged but [in the case of cannabis users] they're
harming no-one."

The wait dragged on for half an hour, then two officers braved the
jeers to enter the cafe only to come out again shortly, disappointing
everyone by not having made an arrest.

I finally managed to squeeze inside for some refreshments. As one
local shop worker put it, it's amazing "what people'll do tae sell a
cup 'o tea." Business was, needless to say, booming. Except for the
police, of course.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake