Six constables from the England’s Greater Manchester Police District arrested six people at Saturday morning’s opening of what activists hoped would be the first officially sanctioned marijuana coffee shop outside of Holland.
According to exclusive interviews and reports obtained from the scene by Cannabis Culture, police showed up at the premises of “The Dutch Experience” at 10:10 am Saturday morning. United Kingdom medical marijuana patient and activist Colin Davies, 44, and Dutch coffee shop guru Nol Van Schaik, along with several other Dutch citizens and British citizens, were at the time organizing the ceremonial opening of the shop, which was to have taken place at noon.
Instead, constables detained everyone in the establishment, then arrested Davies, Van Schaik, another British citizen, two other Dutch males and a Dutch female. Early reports indicate that the arrested Dutch nationals include Marcel Dekker, who works for Van Schaik running the Willie Wortel Workshop coffee shop in Haarlem, England near Amsterdam, and Maruska De Blauuw, Van Schaik’s life partner and the curator of the much-lauded Global Hemp Museum in Haarlem.
Davies and Van Schaik planned and built The Dutch Experience shop in an abandoned shopping center in Stockport, which is just outside of Manchester in Northern England. The pair had been very public about their efforts, with Van Schaik posting full text and picture reports on his website message boards (www.wwwshop.nl). Davies and Van Schaik had granted numerous media interviews to international and local press, honestly and explicitly outlining their intent to sell high quality marijuana at lower than average prices to both medical and “social” users. Davies said that social users would pay more than medical users, and that the extra fee paid by social users would subsidize low price and free marijuana provided to bona fide medical users.
On Friday, Van Schaik told Cannabis Culture that Davies had been negotiating with police
“As far as we can tell, the police know that what we are doing does not fit the definition of criminal act in any intelligent sense, and that Colin has been arrested many times for growing and providing cannabis with juries always finding that his activities did not constitute a crime,” Van Schaik said by cell phone from newly-refurbished Dutch Experience shop. “Colin’s understanding is that the police are not intending to close us down as soon as we open, and that they are going to monitor the situation to see if we comply with our own charter and if this shop carries on the Dutch tradition of providing a safe, orderly way for people to get medicine and a socially acceptable herb.”
If the opening ceremonies had gone as planned, Dutch coffee shop pioneer Wernard Bruining, who created the first coffee shop ever opened in Holland, was to have cut a ribbon at the entrance to The Dutch Experience after Van Schaik, Davies and a bevy of medpot patients sang a song written by Van Schaik to commemorate the occasion.
Instead, constables closed the shop before it ever opened.
At 2 PM Eastern time, a spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Police told Cannabis Culture that the six people arrested were still in custody, had not yet been charged, and were being questioned. The initial arrests, which the spokesperson claimed were carried out quietly and without physical force, guns, protests, or violence, were based on violations of British drug law. The charge that will be laid against the arrested individuals, if charges are brought at all, is described as “possession of a Class B drug, cannabis, with intent to distribute.”
The spokesperson said that it was too early to determine if Davies, Van Schaik and their colleagues would be charged with any crime. If they are not charged with a crime, they can only be held in custody until Sunday morning.
Cannabis Culture has of course been unable to reach any of those who are currently under arrest, but Van Schaik on Friday spoke prophetically about what might happen on Saturday.
“This is a week when we have seen the terrible tragedy in the USA, which is just another example of how brute force, insanity, prejudice, hatred and violence can ruin anybody’s day,” he said. “I believe that the drug war, the whole idea that we have to worry about being arrested because we believe in our freedom to enjoy this beautiful plant in Europe and across the world, is another symptom of a kind of cruelty that can lead to horrendous acts against innocent people. I don’t think that the British government, which has had to worry about diverting airplanes from flying over London in fear of terrorist attacks, should have any concerns about a group of people who want to help medical patients and bring the rational Dutch marijuana policy to England. But if they do arrest us, it will be because we are fighting for freedom, and I don’t believe that the British public or anybody else will support any action taken against us, especially at a time when the world desperately needs some good news.”
For information about the dutch experience, Colin Davies and Nol Van Schaik, see the articles on the Cannabis Culture website, and dial into the Link of the Moment (The Dutch Experience) on the Cannabis Culture homepage. Also subscribe to Cannabis Culture magazine which will feature in-depth articles about the dutch experience and the european marijuana scene in general in upcoming issues.