Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2004
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Huw Borland
Bookmark: (Chris Baldwin)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Cannabis campaigner Chris Baldwin was offered the drug in jail but turned it
down because it was of such poor quality.

The self-styled marijuana martyr was relaxing at home yesterday after being
freed from a six-month prison sentence after six-and-a-half weeks. He said:
"I was offered cannabis once but it was 'soap bar' and really low-grade
gear. I campaign against it and he wanted to sell me half an ounce of the

During his incarceration Mr Baldwin, who suffers from spastic paraplegia,
put up with painful cramps, leg spasms and sleepless nights. Now half a
stone lighter and distinctly greyer, the 53-year-old, of Carnegie Close,
Worthing, must wear an electronic tag around his wrist for another three
months. Mr Baldwin was the mastermind behind a series of Amsterdam-style
coffee shops in Worthing, an enterprise which prompted months of police
raids, arrests and court appearances.

He was jailed at Chichester Crown Court on January 9, convicted of allowing
cannabis to be used at a property and having cannabis with intent to supply
at his Quantum Leaf cafe in Rowlands Road.

His problems began, he says, within minutes of his arrival at Highdown
prison, Surrey. Staff took days to arrange a vegan diet that suited him. But
a few hunger pangs were nothing compared with cannabis deprivation. Mr
Baldwin insists the drug helps his condition without the unpleasant
side-effects of stronger pharmaceutical drugs.

He said: "I was okay on the first night in jail because I had eaten and
smoked cannabis before going to court.

"But the next day I was in the depths of despair. With no medication my leg
muscles tightened up, I got severe cramps and could barely pee. "The prison
doctor gave me Valium. I took it for four weeks and felt like a zombie.
"I've smoked cannabis for 35 years and there is one thing I've discovered -
there are no withdrawal symptoms. I had no problems coming off it but the
difference it made to my legs was immense.

"On cannabis I function perfectly well. On Valium I would not be able to
think straight. "I did not like having to take Valium but when my legs are
in spasm I have to stretch and punch them to ease the pain."

Mr Baldwin said other inmates took care of disabled prisoners, ensuring they
were not picked on or taken advantage of. Many gave him their portions of
Weetabix and fruit so he had enough to eat.

Bladder problems meant Mr Baldwin, who uses elbow crutches to walk, only
slept for two or three hours a night.

He said: "When you're not sleeping you're doing double time. If you get
eight hours' sleep, you're sleeping a third of your sentence." Having spent
his first day of freedom with his family on Tuesday, Mr Baldwin said he was
enjoying good food and thanking the 257 people who sent him cards during his
time in jail.

However, the harsh realities of being a spastic paraplegic in prison have
convinced him not to supply cannabis again.

Still adamant that the drug should be legalised, he said: "I do not agree
with the law that put me in prison but I do understand the mechanics. "I
pushed it so far the judge said he reluctantly had no choice but to send me
down." Mr Baldwin plans to write a book about his political career as a
Legalise Cannabis Alliance candidate in the 2001 General Election, his
cannabis cafes and his experience in jail.
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