British prisons full

Colin Davies (right) and Nol Van SchaikColin Davies (right) and Nol Van SchaikThe saga of England’s first official marijuana coffee shop continues.
It started last year, the same week as September 11th, when Dutchman Nol Van Schaik and Englishman Colin Davies opened The Dutch Experience in Stockport, England.

Police raided the shop repeatedly, even though they’d earlier told Davies they intended only to “monitor” its activities.

Davies was jailed, released, re-arrested, jailed, brought before judges, told judges he would never stop selling pot, imprisoned for six months, released in May, re-arrested in July, now in prison again.

He hasn’t even had a trial. Some people suspect that the government would be happy if Colin died in prison.

Arrested with Davies in July was a friend of his from Holland: Bart Meekel.

In Bart’s hometown of Haarlem, Holland, he works for Nol Van Schaik as a coffee shop “budtender,” skillfully dispensing Van Schaik’s menu of rip-roaring herb and hash.

In England, police stormed in on Bart when he was visiting Colin’s home. They found no evidence that Bart was in any way connected to the paltry amount of weed allegedly found in Colin’s flat. But Bart was there, he was Dutch, and he was a friend of Van Schaik, a man hated by the English piglets because Van Schaik isn’t into pork.

So off to prison for Bart – denied bail, no trial, just sent to prison.

In the meantime, the British justice system is in crisis because the country’s prisons are bursting full. There are nearly 72,000 people serving hard time in England. Violent criminals often serve time in local jails. Lots of bad people have gone free because there’s nowhere to warehouse them.

In the last three years, England has released 44,000 prisoners before they finished serving their sentences.

The prisoners were fitted with electronic tags, like cattle. Many of them have sanely enjoyed their early freedom. Others have not. Tagged prisoners committed more than 1,400 new crimes, including four rapes, 38 serious woundings, 82 serious assaults and three kidnappings. They also committed 19 muggings, 53 burglaries and 223 other thefts. Seven threatened to kill people, two were found with guns, 14 with knives and 123 committed drugs offences. Seventy-eight criminals, including 10 burglars and eight muggers, have also gone missing after cutting off their tags.

Yet, British Home Secretary David Blunkett says he will begin tagging and releasing more prisoners, including those previously ineligible for release: prisoners with drug offenses were until now barred from the release program.

Bart Meekel would like to know what Blunkett is thinking. Van Schaik would like to know IF Blunkett is thinking.

Davies and Meekel, and many other cannabis people, are imprisoned in England. Violent, dangerous criminals are being let go. Davies and Meekel are not being let go.

Blunkett just announced his so-called marijuana law reforms. They amount to no reforms at all really, and in fact increase the penalties for growing and trafficking the sacred herb.

Meekel wrote me from prison.

Have you ever corresponded with anybody in prison for marijuana? You ought to try it. It might turn you into an activist, somebody who cares about something more than just getting hold of some good pot and hiding in your house hoping it isn’t you who gets caught next.

“They have me in this place because I knew Colin and Nol, and because I am a Dutchman,” Meekel says, writing in English way better than I write in Dutch. “They say they can’t let me out because I might ‘re-offend.’ I can’t ‘re-offend.’ I never offended in the first place. Is it a crime in England to know people, or to be Dutch? It seems that it is.”

Meekel is a healthy young man who plays soccer, rides bikes, dances, enjoys cannabis, and works hard for Van Schaik. Well, he used to do all that. Now, he is trapped in a prison in Liverpool. His British lawyer is incapable of getting him released; Van Schaik has had to hire a Dutch lawyer.

Bart is hoping that somebody brings his plight to the attention of Amnesty International, or the European Human Rights Court.

“They are discriminating against me because I am Dutch,” he says. “They have no evidence of any crime I have committed because there is no evidence because I committed no crime. I must keep on fighting to get out of here.” So Davies and Bart are languishing behind bars while rapists and kidnappers are being released. In Tony Blair’s England, it makes perfect sense.

“You don’t want to know how depressing this injustice is,” Bart wrote. “Being inside makes you lose sight of life in the real world, you don’t want to live sometimes.”

You can read more about the sad tale of Bart and Colin in issue 40 of Cannabis Culture magazine.

Below are the prison addresses of Bart and Colin. Brighten their day by sending a letter. And while you’re at it, contact the British embassy in your country and tell them to release all the marijuana prisoners in England, especially Bart and Colin, before they release a few thousand more violent people.

Maybe you can talk some sense into that corrupt, heartless government that is ruining the British Isles.Colin Davies (right) and Nol Van Schaik


Bart Meekel GT7775
HMP Altcourse
Higher lane
Fazakerley Liverpool
L9 7LH

Colin Davies
HM Prisons
Southall St
M60 9AH