Six marijuana activists arrested by England’s Greater Manchester Police District at the opening of what activists hoped would be the first officially sanctioned marijuana coffee shop outside of Holland were released from jail Sunday morning, after spending 14 hours in detention.
According to exclusive interviews and reports obtained from the scene by Cannabis Culture, police showed up at the premises of “The Dutch Experience” in Stockport, England 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 other Dutch citizens and British medical marijuana patients, were at the time organizing the ceremonial opening of the shop, which was to have taken place at noon.
Although police officials told Cannabis Culture on Saturday that the arrest of Davies, Van Schaik, and several other activists were peacefully conducted without prisoner abuse or public protest, Van Schaik told us after being released at 3:30 am Sunday morning that the police acted “with prejudice and needlessly endangered sick and dying people, as well as non-violent marijuana advocates who were not resisting arrest.”
Van Schaik reported that 30 reporters from European and international news media were on hand to record the opening of the shop. Instead, he says, approximately 30 police officers showed up at about the same time that the first medpot patients were purchasing marijuana from The Dutch Experience. About 150 medical marijuana users, many crippled and in wheelchairs, were on hand for the opening.
Constables stormed into the shop and initially detained everyone, Van Schaik reports. Then, they selectively arrested Dutch nationals who were not in possession of marijuana. Van Schaik says that as far as he can determine, police had a “hit list” of people they wanted to arrest. The list centered on those that the police believed were organizers and promoters of The Dutch Experience.
Police officials explicitly told Cannabis Culture that no physical force or abuse occurred as the arrests were made, but Van Schaik and other witnesses say that Davies, who has severe, permanent spinal injuries, was manhandled and injured during the arrest. Maruska De Blauuw, Van Schaik’s life partner and curator of the highly-lauded Global Hemp Museum in Haarlem, Holland near Amsterdam, was jacked up by a female constable when De Blauuw attempted to rescue a wheelchair-bound patient who was panicking during the arrest. Medpot patients protested police actions and were shoved and harassed by police as a result, witnesses reported.
Also taken into custody was Marcel Dekker, a long-time ally of Van Schaik who manages the Dutch coffee shop magnate’s “Willie Wortel Workshop” pot club in Haarlem. Van Schaik’s computer genius website manager, DJ Maarten Goedman, was taken into custody, even though he had no marijuana and was running the satellite uplink that was supposed to have broadcast the historic event on the worldwide web. De Blauuw was arrested along with Davies and another Britisher.
Davies and Van Schaik planned and built The Dutch Experience 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, explaining their intent to sell high quality marijuana at lower than average prices to both medical and “social” users. Davies said 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.
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 medpot patients sang a song written by Van Schaik to commemorate the occasion.
Van Schaik said that he and Davies had anticipated no problems from police because police told Davies late last week that they were going to “monitor” the shop rather than bust it.
The arrested individuals have been released on “police bail” and ordered to appear in an English court if and when charges are filed against them. Police spokespersons told Cannabis Culture Sunday afternoon that no decision has yet been made about the filing of charges. If they are charged, a spokesperson said, they will be accused of being in possession of a “Class B prohibited drug, cannabis, with intent to supply.”
Van Schaik was livid about the arrest, calling it a “disgusting mess made so by the police,” but he remains undaunted. Allies of Davies reopened the shop within hours of the bust, he said, and Davies has promised to keep The Dutch Experience alive “no matter how many times they come to harass me.” Media coverage and public reaction has been totally sympathetic to The Dutch Experience throughout Europe, Van Schaik said, noting that police had roughed up, detained, and arrested journalists who were later released. He defiantly told British officials that he, Davies, medpot patients and their allies would be “a constant force in England until the government changes the laws and the police stop arresting people for plants.”
On Friday, before the weekend’s harrowing events, Van Schaik speculated about what might happen to The Dutch Experience, and also tried to contextualize the historic attempt to bring pot freedom to England occurred:
“This is a week when we have seen 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 or into www.dutchexperience.org. 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.