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Home Thanet News Article
The man behind the plan to bring cannabis cafes to the county has challenged Kent's police commissioner to a face-to-face debate about the proposal.
Green Party district councillor Ian Driver wants an Amsterdam-style cafe to come to Thanet - and hopes to meet Ann Barnes after she declined an invitation to attend a meeting about the project on Saturday.
Cllr Driver, an ex-recreational drugs user, chaired the public meeting in Broadstairs and, despite only around 20 people attending, is still fully behind his plan.
He hopes the government will allow the cafe to be a pilot study, where users could take the drug without fear of arrest and academics could gauge how the project works.
He has now set up a steering group with people from the area to help further develop the plans.
Cllr Driver - who is also a parliamentary candidate for Thanet south - said: "The meeting went very well but we're very disappointed that Ann Barnes wasn't there because what we were talking about was a very important policing issue.
"By not turning up she's indicated that it's an area of policing that she's not interested in which is a shame.
"To say I'm too busy and have other concerns really is a nonsense and shows that Ann Barnes has got a closed mind.
"I'll publicly challenge her now to have a debate with me about cannabis and the law - let's bring it on, have that debate, and see what Ann Barnes has to say.
"As police commissioner, you've got to be ready to talk about new ideas, not dismiss things as she seems to have done in this case.
"So come on Ann, let's get round the table, have an audience, and talk it through."
Cllr Driver hoped for a full-house at the meeting, but despite only 20 people attending, says the people of Thanet should still be "proud."
"All I can say is I'm very proud about the people in Thanet who supported this idea because I think in some respects we've been breaking new ground over the weekend - which is a fantastic thing to do," he said.
"People in Thanet should be proud because we may well be one of the first places in the country to have a cafe.
"We will certainly be carrying on the debate in the community and I think it's got to be for the good."
Speakers at the meeting included Professor Alex Stevens from the University of Kent, an international authority on cannabis law reform, and representatives from he Kent Cannabis Consortium, and the UK Cannabis Social Clubs.
Cllr Driver stressed that the pilot study cafe he is proposing would help the government understand drug policy.
"Everyone is now talking about evidence-based policy making, this would probably be some of the best evidence you could get," he added.
"We're going to be trying to contact MPs and the Home Office once we've developed our business plan to say come on, let's have a pilot study in Thanet and probably in half a dozen other towns in the country where we can find out what - in the real world - the impact of a cafe would be.
"We want it to be open, transparent, regulated and approved by the government. Pilots and testing make good law so it makes so much sense.
"I think it's the beginning of a very interesting period in Thanet."
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