Cannabis Legalisation In The UK Called For As Amsterdam-Style Cafe Plan Is Proposed

As the battle for Britain's first cannabis cafe was launched again this week, campaigners have stepped up their call for the legalisation of the Class B drug.

Ian Driver, a Green Party councillor for Thanet District Council, said this week he is looking for possible venues in Margate or Ramsgate for an Amsterdam-style cafe.

But Steve Rolles, the Senior Policy Analyst for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, told the Huffington Post UK he is arguing for a regulated cannabis market in the UK under a strict and sensible framework.

Mr Rolles, who advised the Uruguayan government on its landmark decision to legalise the drug earlier this year, said efforts need to be focused on something more “long term”.

He highlighted that Mr Driver’s efforts are not the first time someone has tried to open a cannabis cafe in the UK, with police in Manchester blocking the introduction of a cannabis "social club" in the city's Northern Quarter in January.

And Mr Driver has already faced opposition from Kent Police, who have refused to even discuss the issue.

Mr Rolles acknowledged the push for cannabis cafes can help raise awareness of the divisive issue, but added that, at this stage, the current law will not allow any progression.

“Efforts like this can be useful for pushing the debate on legal cannabis regulation forward, as they force the authorities to at least consider the possibilities,” he said.

“The law is very clear though, so unless there was an agreement with police to not enforce the law, as well as the support of local authorities to license it in some way - as happens in Amsterdam, a cafe of this sort is not going to stay open for long and is mostly just a campaigning tool in the short term at least.

“Similar cafes have been opened before but have been shut down very quickly, at least when they have courted media coverage. There are some that still operate under the radar with tacit approval of local police, but as soon as the media makes a fuss the police are obligated to shut it.”

His comments follow recent reform victories that are arguably reshaping the landscape of the oldest debate in drug policy.

And as the US state of Colorado announced this week it had collected more than a million pounds in taxes from newly legalised recreational marijuana businesses during the first month of sales – the debate around the regulation of the drug in the UK has been thrown back into the spotlight.

In February, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the UK should explore alternatives to a blanket ban on drugs and Britain should be at the heart of the debate.

Mr Rolles concluded: “What's really be needed is national level agreement, as the have in the Netherlands, or better still a change in the law to allow regulated production and sales from licensed premises as has happened in Washington, Colorado and Uruguay.”

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