May 2nd, 2003
THE MAN behind Britain's first cannabis coffee shop has been denied an early release from prison - for smoking dope.
Now, a Euro MP, who has campaigned against the UK drug laws has written to ministers calling for Colin Davies to be let out.
Davies, who opened Stockport's Dutch Experience cafe and was sentenced to three years last October for supplying cannabis, is in an open prison in Derbyshire and was due out last month under a tag scheme.
But the early release has been blocked by HMP Sudbury's governor because Davies was tested positive for cannabis and it was suspected he would continue using the drug outside.
A judge who looked into the matter during an independent adjudication on April 15 said, although Mr Davies would have a defence in criminal law if he claimed to take cannabis for medical reasons, the governor's decision was prison policy and would be up to the government to revoke.
Davies is now due to be released under licence in July, as he had served several months on remand before last year's court case, but this depends on a second adjudication on May 12.
The governor's decision was criticised today by Mr Davies' solicitor and attacked by Chris Davies MEP - not related.
Both argue he is classified as low risk and was classified as appropriate for release under the curfew scheme, set up by the government to reduce the prison population and usually only denied to prisoners who are dangerous or likely to reoffend.
Colin Davies claims he has smoked cannabis to relieve his pain since he broke his spine in a 70ft fall down a riverbank several years ago.
Chris Davies MEP, who himself appeared in a crown court trial after arriving at Stockport police station carrying a small amount of cannabis as a protest against drug laws, has now written to prison minister Hilary Benn calling for him to approve the early release.
The MEP said: "The only reason he's not been released at the moment is because he's been taking cannabis. He's not allowed to do it but we all know from the figures that the way authorities handle drug taking in prison is deeply flawed. Many prison authorities turn a blind eye."
Changes to the law announced by the Home Secretary, making possession of small amounts of cannabis a non-arrestable offence, come into effect the day before Mr Davies is now due out, and the drug will be available over the counter to multiple sclerosis sufferers this autumn.
Chris Hinett of Henry and Co Solicitors added: "I would expect half the prison population take drugs of one form or other. I've never known anyone been refused a curfew for their use of controlled drugs.
"He's being treated like a political prisoner. He whacked the system
and they're getting him back."
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