Take our Poll | Contact Us | Join our mailing list | Advanced Search |

"Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy for it means pushing back a boundary-line and adding to one's liberty."
Henri Frederic Amiel
"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Martin Luther King Jr.
"We learn from history that we do not learn from history."

Opening a Medical Coffeeshop

This notice goes out to all coffee shop owners and medi-cannabis users: By R.A.W.

It is apparent that when Blunket came out with the most recent notice condemning the sellers and growers of cannabis but relaxing the penalties for the users that we had just once again been let down. Where is the cannabis to come from? I suppose it was supposed to appear from thin air.

The issue of medical marijuana has yet to be fully dealt with in the U.K. However, many judges and other senior law officials are begging to understand the multitude of medical uses cannabis offers to the public. I noticed that when Colin David opened the Dutch Experience that the police told him that they knew he was helping the sick and as long as he kept quiet, they would too. Heroically, yet sadly, Colin took all comers. Recreational as well as medical users were allowed to partake.

I fully agree with his principles and ideals but we have to take this one step at a time. Our priority should be to help those that NEED cannabis before those that just want it. We have seen the police and law relaxing the penalties for selling and possession when extenuating circumstances are in play. The media also got hold of it and made it look as if the coffee shop was "thumbing its nose" at the police and thusly the police were forced to act.

I intend to (with a multitude of partners) rent a large, sound proofed apartment in the Edinburgh area. This will be the coffee shop. A batch of invitation cards are printed and handed to groups which help medical marijuana patients (MMCO and MMCOS). Only if you have one of these invitation cards can you become a member. This helps to ensure the right people know about us. There is a number on the card which is a telephone number. This is a secure number on which to receive calls. The patients call this number to find out where the cafe is and our hours.

All members must have a doctor's note stating either that they recommend cannabis to help with their condition. Or if the patient doesn't wish to involve the Dr. then a note stating that he/she suffers from one of the ailments on our medical-marijuana list will suffice. The doctors name and address and telephone number must be on the declaration as these details will be confirmed by contacting the Dr. This insures that ALL of our clients are medical users. If this coffee shop has a MUCH higher chance of survival due to the following reasons:

  1. ALL users are medical users. You can't be accused of being a drug dealer or influencing children. You are also helping MANY sick people.

  2. You keep it away from the press and media coverage. You are there to help people not be a martyr or movie star.

  3. You keep it as a "non-profit" organization. The sales of the cannabis, papers, lighters, food and drinks all go towards the running and costs of the cafe plus helping to keep the cost of the cannabis for the members at below street price.

Here is a good little guide on the basic setup of the coffee shop itself. I also recommend having the harm reduction booklets mentioned in it in your coffee shop. Also, try using the membership form that the original Dutch Experience used with the small change that only medical users can gain access to the club. Enjoy!

Setting up an above-ground "coffeeshop" or "herbal tearoom" or "flower shop" or "electric breakfast" or whatever you're going to call it is by no means an easy task. It's OK to be a victimless criminal, as long as everyone understands exactly why you are breaking the law.


Tips on naming your operation
Your name is your real power. Each time your name is mentioned it must be an educational experience. Some examples are the "Acceptable Risk Club," the "No More Hangover Club," the "Not as Harmful as Caffeine Club" - you get the idea.

Name your location something different than the club that runs it. It's a chance to get a different idea across, and it can be a funny way to blend in with your surroundings. For example, imagine "The Christiania Tearoom," "The Mellow Coffeehouse," or even "The Friendly Florists."

Tips on picking a location
Pick something near a subway station or main bus route and help your supporters help you by being convenient to reach. This will also discourage impaired driving. It's best to find a hard-core puffin' landlord, but one who can be bought-off to look the other way might have to do. Subletting and lying are also options, but try to set-up a long-term location early on. Many non-European cultures are not cannaphobic, so check out the "multi-cultural" neighbourhoods. You may ultimately have to lie to your landlord to save them from being implicated in your activities.

Tips on cards and guides
A typical membership pitch "Hello folks and welcome to the Green Thumb. Let me lock the door behind you, please just step over here to the membership book. This is our membership card. It's printed on hemp paper, has evidence that harm reduction works on the back and it has a pledge that you will not operate heavy machinery while impaired on marijuana. Our definition of impaired is "failing an driving impairment test."

Just pick a fake name like "Buds Bunny" or "Donkey Ho-Tee" and sign it on your card and in our book. If you sign it on line 1735, that's your number, write in on your card. Have your card with you for all transactions. Here's your Safer Smarter Smoking Guide. This will inform you of the ways in which you can avoid some of the negative aspects of smoking pot and all of the negative aspects of suffering under prohibition.

Membership lasts a lifetime but there is a £5 a month cover charge to help with the running of the coffee shop and is only 5 quid. Replacement cards cost £10. You must be over eighteen to join and must have a doctors note stating either: 1) That they recommend cannabis to help with their condition. Or if the patient doesn't wish to involve the Dr. then 2) A note stating that he/she suffers from one of the ailments on our medical-marijuana list will suffice.

The doctors name and address and telephone number must be on the declaration as these details will be confirmed by contacting the Dr. This insures that ALL of our clients are medical users Our hours are one pm to ten pm every day. Here's your card, here's your guide, here's your bud. Take care and don't drive impaired."

Membership cards and the Safer Smarter Smoking Guide are the "responsibility agreement and educational component" aspects that make up your harm reduction strategy. They are essential. The membership card (printed on hemp paper, of course) should have your phone numbers on the front, along with a pledge not to operate heavy machinery while impaired on marijuana.

Ours also has a quote from the Dutch Government's October '95 report on harm reduction called "Continuity and Change. "The Harm Reduction Club's Safer Smarter Smoking Guide is mostly copied materials, such as Chapter 3 of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, by Grinspoon and Bakalar, Dutch Government evidence, articles from the media, and other stuff like that.

Tips on tearoom furnishings

Tips on picking a mode of organization
Like the Yippies and Christiania, the Harm Reduction Club is another attempt at a collectively run organization. Decisions are made at Monday-night staff meetings (try picking a yummy food spot to ensure attendance), or in emergency situations by a majority of those who are present at the time the vote needs to be cast.

Why have a democratic workplace? As my favourite anarchist officer George Orwell pointed out, it takes just about as long to explain yourself as it takes to turn someone into your robot slave. Friends will work harder with you than slaves will work for you. Of course, because I'm the sole investor, people listen to my opinion carefully but I can still be, and often am, outvoted. My co-workers and I have agreed to work for less than minimum wage, to remove the "profit motive over health concerns" argument from the equation, which is the real problem with the alcohol and tobacco industries. Attempting to get official non-profit status will compromise the anonymity of your membership.

Tips on other security problems

Tips on buying and selling pot

Tips on hash
Take a small nerd off and stick it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Wait a full minute. If it goes blond real quick, the word on the street says it's cut. If it tastes like sugar or salt or Vaseline or anything chemical, it's cut. Never buy or sell cut hash.

Tips on making money
Let me quote Marc Emery for this one: "get people to spend money with you." Have your two most intelligent and principled co-workers keep track of these three very important numbers:
1) pot and cash at opening
2) pot and cash at closing and
3) daily expenses.

In the beginning, the amount you can make is ridiculous. No (formal) competition, millions in free publicity (medical cannabis organisations and word of mouth only! Keep away from the press and media like your life depends on it! It does!) and a limitless market. It's really like walking up to a mountain of money with a bucket. Spend that money wisely. Know the amount of cash that you have on you at all times. If the police catch you with lots of money and you don't know how much it is they have an excuse to call it "drug money." Tell them you won it at poker. Remember to try to keep the coffee shop as a non profit organisation. This helps the members have lots of good and cheap pot and also will REALLY help you out if you have running in with the police.

Tips on spending money

Special tips on "unarresting" people
What the hell is "unarresting" someone? The way it works is that everyone simply hugs the person getting arrested. The point is that you could never unarrest someone suspected of murder or rape, as everyone wants these people under tight control. But unarresting someone for a pot offence is something that almost everyone agrees with, sometimes even the police doing the arresting!

The whole trick is done with cameras. Video cameras especially, but you can do it with a still camera too. Just remember, cops have "Rodney-King-o-phobia". They don't like being caught on film using force unjustifiably. They know a picture is worth a million votes, and so do we. Hug the person about to be arrested as if your life depended on it (it does, trust me) and make the cops work really hard to get you into the paddy wagon, but never touch a cop. Touching a cop without their permission is assault, in some small towns it's legal grounds for them to kill you on the spot.

To tell the truth, hugging the person getting arrested is technically "assaulting an officer," but I think this kind of assault would be laughed at in the papers and I doubt they'd try to argue it. Always remember to be as polite as you can be. Five hard-core huggers and a loose camera can take on three cops and win. The cops know this too, so have more than one camera with you and hide about half of them.

Extra Notes on earning a few extra £££'s and keeping customers happy
Although you should have a selection of pipes, bongs and vapo's for your clients you should also sell packs of different types of papers, cheap pipes, lighters, fresh fruit, drinks (no alcohol! Fruit juices, tea, coffee and milk (cookies too?) are good choices. Try some of the classic "choco-mel"wink this selection not only increases the convenience for the clients but helps to add a certain "Dutch coffee shop" vibe to the tea-room.

Also, try and have a couple of different choices available to the customers. Remember to use most of the profit to help subsidise the cannabis so it can be below street prices. It is also nice to walk through the coffee shop now and again and just hand out free grams and joints to people.

The Kindest Regards in all of your futures! R.A.W.