First a cat café, now a cannabis café: Green councillor in Kent holds public meeting to set up a marijuana venue in Thanet


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Indy Politics

Kent could get its own Amsterdam-style cannabis café if a bid launched by a Green councillor is successful.

Thanet Councillor Ian Driver believes popular opinion is moving in favour of the venue, which would allow users to smoke the class B drug.

Last month Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that the UK should be at the heart of the debate about alternatives to prohibition.

Mr Driver, who has admitted to using cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy in the past, wants to form a group to come up with a business case for the café and is looking at possible sites in Margate and Ramsgate.

However he faces opposition from Kent police, who have refused to take part in a public meeting, to be held in Thanet on Saturday to discuss the proposal.

Speakers at the meeting will include Professor Alex Stevens from the University of Kent, The Kent Cannabis Consortium and the UK Cannabis Social Clubs. Anne Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, was invited but declined to attend.

Mr Driver said: “I am very disappointed that Anne Barnes will not be present. The debate about drugs and policing is becoming much more topical and important. Senior police officers such as Chief Constable Mike Barton of the Durham Constabulary and senior politicians like Nick Clegg, are calling for an informed national debate about drugs policy.

"Just two weeks ago a Government e-petition sponsored by Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, calling for a review of UK drugs laws received more than 135,000 signatures. But Anne Barnes chooses to bury her head in the sand and duck out of a very important discussion about police related policy.”

The councillor said he had been “inundated with messages from local cannabis users who said they will be coming to the meeting”.

Mrs Barnes said the campaign would need to lobby for a law change. She added: “One of my roles is to hold the Chief Constable to account for upholding the law. I simply cannot turn a blind eye to this. We live in a democracy and if people want the law changed on the use of cannabis then they really need to lobby their local MP.”

Plans to open a cannabis café in Manchester’s Northern Quarter were quashed in January following objections by police.

Colin Davies, 56, planned to open the New Way Café, which would allow customers to smoke the Class B substance on the premises. The club would be members only, charging a £35 annual fee and the sale of the drug was to be strictly prohibited until such a time as it was legally permitted.

Greater Manchester Police said it lacked the resources to ensure that the proposed café was operating within the law and was not encouraging criminal elements. Mr Davies plans to lobby local councillors for their support in reviving the proposal.

Cannabis was reclassified from Class C to a Class B drug five years ago meaning a higher maximum jail sentence for possession.

The then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said there was “uncertainty at the least” on the future impact on young people's mental health as a result of using cannabis.

Following a visit to Colombia, where he discussed that country’s “war on drugs”, Nick Clegg said: “I want to end the tradition where politicians only talk about drugs reform when they have left office because they fear the political consequences.”