Pubdate: Tue, 25 Apr 2006
Source: Liverpool Echo (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Trinity Mirror Plc
Author: Sarah Chapman & Mike Hornby, Liverpool Echo
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


THE jailing of a Liverpool cannabis cafe owner should serve as a
warning to others, police said today.

Officers welcomed the 12-month term handed to Gary Youds who had
opened an Amsterdam-style cafe in Holt Road, Kensington, last year.

Superintendent Chris Armitt of Merseyside police said: "Mr Youds has
flagrantly broken the law and despite repeated warnings and
intervention, engaged in acts that could bring harm to the local
community, and he has been sentenced accordingly.

"We don't condone drug taking or law breaking in any way and will
always act when matters of this nature are brought to our attention."

But those who live close to the Chill-in' Rooms said they were
surprised by Mr Youds' sentence..

Enid Bristow, of the Needham Road residents association, was one of a
group of locals invited to tour the cafe shortly after it opened.

Mrs Bristow said today: "It's sad for Gary, I wouldn't wish any harm
on the lad.

"I was impressed when I went round the cafe. It was very nicely
decorated, just like a wine bar."

Robert Maloney, who lives on Holt Road, said: "There wasn't so much as
a peep from that place when it was open.

"I suppose the police had no choice but to shut it

"They can't pick and choose which laws to enforce."

Campaigners for reform of the drugs laws say last year's
re-classification of the drug, from B to C, had caused confusion among
the public about what can and cannot be done.

Katy Swaine, head of legal services for the drugs advice charity
Release, said: "There has never been a decriminalisation of cannabis
but there is now a presumption against arrest.

"People do underestimate the seriousness of cannabis possession but I
can see where this confusion may have come from."

Steve Rolles, information officer for Transform Drug Policy
Foundation, said: "When re-classification happened a clutch of
cannabis cafes opened around the country.

"Some continued to stay open for a while, such as the one in Liverpool
because the police were pragmatic about them.

"Shutting these places down isn't really in the police's interest
because it takes their resources and has no effect on cannabis use."

Air Was Thick With Smoke

THE Chillin' Rooms opened in March last year and was soon attracting
police attention.

Liverpool crown court was told yesterday that police raided the
premises twice in a month. Each time officers noticed the air was
thick with the smell and smoke of cannabis and there were several
people inside the cafe.

Users of the cafe were cautioned for smoking the drug and Youds was

Raids on his semi-detached house in Cavan Road, Norris Green, revealed
bags of cannabis and cannabis plants, and cuttings were growing in an

The 36-year-old pleaded guilty to two charges of permitting the use of
his premises to be used for smoking cannabis.

He has a previous conviction from last year for the same offence and
he was conditionally discharged, the court heard.

He also admitted cultivating cannabis, producing cannabis, possession
of the drug, and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

Youds pleaded guilty to possessing a stun gun, the prosecution
accepted his explanation that he was minding it for someone else.

ECHO Essentials

CANNABIS was downgraded from class B to a class C drug in January

Many people believe that effectively made it legal because possession
of class C drugs is not an arrestable offence.

But the law was changed to make cannabis an exception to the rule,
leaving police with guidelines for arrest of those in possession or
thought to be growing or selling the drug.

A number of people living in the Midlands have been granted immunity
from the law as they are part of government study into the health
qualities of cannabis.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Our position is that cannabis is an
illegal and harmful drug.

"The object of re-classifying it was to reflect changing police
priorities and allow them to focus on class A drugs such as heroin and
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