Sorry it's taken me so long to get this together & posted, I've had a ...... challenging......week. This is a copy (without the photos in place) of the report on my web-site (www.free2toke.net), the 'direct' URL to this page is http://members.tripod.com/alanbmason/Pages/dutch_experience.htm Saturday 15th September 2001 A new era begins...... Colin Davies' "Dutch Experience" Coffee shop opens in Stockport. (Near Manchester, N.W. England) AND THE GANJACAT WAS THERE! Video Clips (MPEG) coming very soon - from the ONLY video camera inside the shop after the pigs and the media departed. The basis of the following report (and the three photos) is taken from www.dopebritannia.com , with additions by yours truly. This is a decent site, I met the owner, Shaun, at 'opening day', he is a genuine activist and a good human being. September 15th, Stockport, Greater Manchester The opening of the UK's first blatant coffeeshop on the 15th of September 2001 in Stockport, Greater Manchester, was always going to be an interesting event. Cannabis was to be on sale for both medical and recreational users, just like in Holland. The industry buzz from headshops and legalisation activists made it seem as though it would be an unforgettable event. The national press had picked up on the story Even the Stockport Police were joining in the building media jamboree, stating that they would uphold the law. The owners of the shop, Colin Davies and Dutchman Nol van Schaik, were relaxed about the prospect of arrest for 'Possession with intent to supply'. Mr. Davies, who once notably presented the Queen with a cannabis bouquet to highlight the plight of medicinal marijuana users, had twice been acquitted of the same offence by Juries of his peers in what are termed 'perverse verdicts'. Mr van Schaik owns a number of coffeeshops in Holland, where they are legally licensed and regulated. It seemed that this would be a media event and a test case all in one go, a milestone event on the inevitable road towards civil liberties and human rights you can use. But then, remarkably, the world changed forever. On Tuesday 11th September four hijacked passenger planes plunged towards their targets at the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon and Camp David. As the tragic proportions of this act sank in, politicians in America and Britain struggled to make sense of what had happened and began to look for ways to increase security. Prime Minister Tony Blair recalled Parliament and told it that we may have to restrict civil liberties in the name of national security. It is unclear precisely which liberties he was referring to, but pro-cannabis groups should be concerned as legalisation in the UK requires an expansion of civil liberties and the right to privacy and family life and this may now be in jeopardy in any anticipated contraction of our freedoms. Nothing can be taken for granted any more, especially not progress. On Saturday 15th, I arrived in Stockport at about 11am after a four hour rail journey. There was less of a police presence in the area than I had expected, and it seemed at times that the media outnumbered the 'supporters'. I set up my Video Camera, an old(ish) Sony HandyCam which in this age of tiny digital palm-corders looked substantial enough for me to be taken as 'media' by all except those who knew me from 'other events' and the net. I was told that the Police had raided the shop at about 10.30am and were still inside. I tried to film through a gap in the blinds, but was 'warned off' by a very large, no-nonsense member of Manchester Constabulary's finest. In my 'playing days' it would have been a pleasure to go head-to-head with him, but this is a different game, with very different rules. I hung about, chatting and filming and mingling. I spoke to Colins' father, (whose support and devotion for his son's cause has made me despise my own parents even more than I already did!) and gave him a drink of my home-made Saki (about 18% proof, and less than Â£1 a GALLON to make!) I shook the hand of Lib-Dem MEP Chris Davies, of Oldham, who had attended to voice his support for the legalisation of all 'drugs'. I met some wonderful and dedicated human beings, including Andria Mordaunt of 'Users Voice', Chris Hyde of 'Cannabliss.com" and the truly loveable Patman Denning, a real STAR. I forecast that there will be several claims BY POLICEMEN for 'industrial injury compensation' because of this 'raid'! Because all 'they' were interested in was what was happening inside the shop. I saw and filmed a copper nearly breaking his neck trying to look the other way, when almost every 'other way' was a vista of open, fearless, public consumption of the "sacred herb". Then there was a commotion and a media 'feeding frenzy' as the Police brought out the arrestees and bagfuls of 'evidence', including posters and two computers, to the total derision of the assembled crowd. 10 minutes later, all the coppers gone, all the media gone, half the supporters scattered to the winds, some gone to wait outside the police station for news of Colin & Nol, some gone to look for lunch, some just plain gone! A contractor puts boards over the doors, to cries of "Don't do it man, you're locking away my medicine!" from Patman. Everything goes quiet...... Then 'someone' produces a power screw-driver, the boards are removed, and the two dozen or so 'survivors' enter the premises.......... (I obtained one of the screws as a souvenir.) The shop itself is very spacious, with two distinct rooms, a table-football unit and all the assorted decoration and omnipresent rolling papers and roach cards that you would expect to find in a Dutch coffeeshop. The 'dealing' area was sadly deserted on Saturday following the raid but it is easy to imagine it operational and busy… Most people had brought very little 'personal', they all intended to 'score' at the shop, to support the MMCO. I was able to put smiles on a couple of faces with my nine-inch (I can prove it!) bifters of "K-2", but I'd only brought half a dozen 'Blue Peters' ( ...and here's one I made earlier) with me, for the same reasons as everyone else. The first hour or so was spent getting to know each other, sharing out the available weed, signing the guest-book and generally just revelling in the experience of ACTUALLY BEING THERE. After maybe an hour, we moved the tables in the 'big room' into a loose circle, and had a decent attempt at a 'council of peace'. As no-one was in charge, and there was no word of Colin, it spluttered out into private conversations fairly quickly. But it happened, it was civilised, it was inclusive, it was REAL. One reason for the break-up was a distinctive lack of herbage. Someone even said they HOPED there would be another 'bust', 'coz by then there wasn't enough weed in the place to stone a lightweight! So a 'group decision' to make some phone calls was made, 'orders' were taken, and we settled down in amicable, fluid little groups to discuss the ills of the world, and wait for the weed. And about 6.30pm, it (2 oz of what I was told by an afficiado was 'tumbled' skunk, from a local dealer) arrived. For Â£20 an 1/8th, satisfied smiles returned to the faces of the patrons. One touch I really liked was the 'concept of the hand':- On the 'bar' counter is a large carved wooden hand, palm flat. Into this was put a pile of weed and a notice was displayed saying something like "Give to the hand with a generous heart, and take from it with respect" - a nice touch for those who couldn't afford a 'deal' but still wanted to partake of the spirit of the place. Regrettably, I had to leave around 8pm, calling a brief "farewell" to the assemblage. But I think they were all too stoned by then to even notice! In the meanwhile, Mr Davies and the other arrestees have been released from custody but are now waiting to hear if they are to be charged with cannabis-related offences. It seems inevitable that they will be back in business soon and will once again be fighting for legalisation in the courts on the grounds of human rights. Let us hope that the British judiciary do not subscribe to the same authoritarian view of the worlds as Mr Blair and will allow us to taste some liberty before the government poisons the well. UPDATE SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER I was due to set off for a return visit to the Dutch Experience today, but literally minutes before I was due to leave I got an e-mail saying that Colin had been raided at his home at 9am this morning. Apparently 2 oz were found. Big problem is that the keys for the shop are now in the police station, and as of about an hour ago Colins' solicitor had been unable to even speak to him. Police excuse - "all our officers are out doing other raids connected with the coffeeshop". So with the shop effectively prevented from opening, I had no choice but to cancel my trip.... Less than 3 minutes before departure..... FUCK!!!!! I was well 'prepared' for a chilled Saturday evening! I reckon the bust was the result of Thursday's Channel 4 piss-take "This Week Only", on which Andy Cornwell admitted that the shop had re-opened and was 'permitting' consumption. But it needed to be said, as the media had given the impression that the shop had stayed closed after the 'bust'. Which also means a delay in posting the promised MPEGS, as I was due to meet the guy who's converted them at t-time today. But it WILL happen. And I WILL return to "Dutch Experience", to show Colin & his staff the video of a wonderful, inspiring and historic opening day. Anyone who wants to make a financial contribution to his worthy cause can do so:- Woolwich Bank, Sort Code: 10-80-04 Acc. No: 82195164 Acc. Name: MMCO Stay tuned!