Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jun 2004
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2004, Archant Regional
Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


The landlord is drawing on a spliff as he serves customers who are
also openly rolling and smoking cannabis joints.

It might easily be some cafe in Amsterdam, but in fact it is the scene
that greets undercover police officers when they walk into the Gallery
Bar, not a stone's throw from Yarmouth seafront.

Behind the bar, alongside the normal snacks, are two boxes containing
UKP5 and UKP10 cannabis wraps, a court heard yesterday.

As a result of the raid, landlord Michael Skipper, 58, appeared at
Norwich Crown Court in April and was found guilty of possessing
cannabis with intent to supply and sentenced to 100 hours' community

And yesterday, the self-proclaimed cannabis champion - who stood in
the borough council elections for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance
(LCA), polling 187 votes - appeared before Yarmouth's licensing
magistrates to fight an application to have his liquor licence revoked.

After hearing evidence from witnesses including neighbours, who told
of late-noise noise and a pungent smell of cannabis wafting down the
road, the Bench decided Mr Skipper was not a fit and proper person to
hold a liquor licence and that his St George's Road premises were

Mr Skipper, who has been given 21 days to appeal, defiantly admitted
he still smoked cannabis, and after the hearing declared that
legalising cannabis "would be a way of regenerating the town".

He said he felt so strongly that driving drugs underground was not
working that he might stand in the next general election for the LCA.

Alison Ings, representing the police, told the court that seven
arrests had been made during the drug raid in January, and an Ecstasy
tablet was seized as well as cannabis.

Cannabis was found on floors and shelves all over the premises, and
apparatus including scales was also seized.

She said: "This was not a one-off incident and there is evidence going
back to 2001 of people saying all sorts of drugs were available on the

Alarming unsubstantiated reports - taken seriously by the police -
included a tip-off that someone was going to be shot in the bar, and
that on one occasion a man with a gun was dealing in crack cocaine.

Ms Ings said evidence of Mr Skipper's "flagrant disregard for the law"
was that neighbours reported having to close their bedroom windows
because of a strong smell of cannabis as recently as last week.

She said local people still believed cannabis was being sold because
of the number of suspiciously quick visits to the bar.

One of Mr Skipper's neighbours, Aliceon Blair, told how he repeatedly
tore down gates she had put up in the private alley outside her
200-year-old cottage as a security measure.

As a result, since he had moved to the bar in March 2000, the lives of
her family and neighbours had been made a misery by Mr Skipper's
customers using the alley as a late-night shortcut into York Road.

She said: "Over four years our human rights have been taken away from

"We have not used our back garden for years because of the language
coming from the bar, the smell of drugs and the sound of people vomiting."

On two occasions she had found syringes in the alley, and they had
endured repeated late-night noise.

Mr Skipper, who had been served a noise abatement notice by the
borough council, told magistrates that when he took over the old St
George's Tavern it was his dream to turn it into an art gallery and

"I have never intended upsetting neighbours. I have soundproofed the
walls and do my best to keep the noise down," he said.

"I started selling cannabis to open up the debate. The law needs to be
challenged, but I will work within the law now." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake