First cannabis cafe set to test new law in Scotland

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SCOTLAND’S first cannabis cafe is to open for business next month when the drug is downgraded to class C.

The Purple Haze internet cafe, a former greasy spoon in Leith, will become a private members’ club in the evenings, where people will be allowed to bring small amounts of their own supply to smoke.

The controversial move will present the first test of how the new law will be applied in Scotland.

Cannabis cafes have operated in England for up to seven months before the owners faced prosecution.

However, there appeared to be little prospect that authorities in Scotland will allow the experiment to continue for long, with police insisting that allowing people to smoke cannabis on your premises would be illegal, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

Long-time cannabis smoker Paul Stewart, owner of the cafe, which used to be called the Ocean, said he believed turning it into a private club in the evenings would allow people to bring and smoke amounts of the drug deemed to be for "personal use".

It is thought that people caught smoking cannabis at home will generally not face court action, but receive only a warning or a fiscal fine, unless there are aggravating factors such as previous offences.

Stewart, 37, said: "I use cannabis and I’m going to allow people to smoke it. I’m not going to sell it, but I’ll allow people to bring their own.

"I’m going to run this as a private party and make it members only with a 5 joining fee. I’m getting membership cards made just now.

"I don’t think there’s going to be a problem, but I could be wrong. I could end up in jail."

He said the cafe would operate as normal until 4pm and then become a private club. While cannabis would be allowed, hard drugs and alcohol would not.

He plans to proclaim the changeover, planned for the end of January, with a banner saying ‘Free Weed Available Here’. Free Weed is a magazine about cannabis.

However, a spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said Stewart would face prosecution even if the cafe was run as a private club.

"He would be committing an offence. It is an offence if you allow your premises to be used knowingly for the smoking of cannabis," she said.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said the change from class B to C would make little difference in Scotland.