As everyone already knows, it was 4/20 on Sunday and a plume of cannabis smoke could be seen and smelt through the downpour of rain that drenched stoners from across the country in London's Hyde Park. Even I couldn't resist the temptation of sticking a finger up at society and sharing a joint with a few thousand other tokers. Yet, despite what the law apparently is, and with large signs to remind us that "cannabis is illegal," the police stood by as we unanimously sparked up at 1620 hours. But there's no novelty of smoking a soggy joint in a park any more, my teenage years are behind me. Instead I left the park in search of somewhere far more interesting, a place I'd only heard rumors about, London's very own coffee shop.
I'd spoken to friends of this place previously but had never been too sure if the tales where slightly too tall. I struggled to believe there was a place I could buy cannabis or hashish, which is still deemed very much illegal here in the UK, and sit down enjoy it with a cup of tea at the same time, but I was sure keen to find it if there was such a place.
So I met up with a couple of already soaked friends joining the rainy parade who apparently knew the whereabouts of the coffee shop and we left the rain, the police and the youths behind. It was a fantastic drive through London -- as much as I hate driving in the big smoke there was something nice about driving past Big Ben, the eye, and even Her Majesties' Buckingham Palace. Really I was most excited for was the civil and friendly organized crime that awaited us though. After a while I was given the okay to park up and we left the car in a busy part of London. We were still far away from lighting that first smoke bought over the counter as it was supposedly "a while" since my lead had been here so it was highly likely to have been shut down. Yet I held out hope.
Then after a quick stop at the cash point we turned onto a street where a totally unmarked door was pointed out to me as being "it" and sure enough the top floor window were all slightly open with the blinds firmly shut and as we approached the door a couple of stoners ambled out discreetly -- it was looking promising. We rang the bell and when asked who we were looking for, my friend simply asked if they were open and we we're buzzed straight in. We entered the shabby stair well and climbed what seemed like endless stairs to the top floor. As we climbed higher the sticky sweet smell grew with my excitement. Then at the top of the stairs i pushed open a door only to be greeted by a stoner's Narnia. A packed room full of smoke and smokers all lounging about casually; laughing, playing chess and cards drinking tea, chatting, watching daytime TV and of course smoking. This is the creme de la creme of this beat generation with the weirdos and the wasters the hippies and freaks, there all here side by side thoroughly enjoying themselves. To our left there is a counter that looks like any other cafe with canned drinks, tea and coffee machines there's also a big TV screen which 4 young guys sat starring intensely at whilst passing a joint between them. This screen displayed the CCTV and I then realized these boys live in constant fear whilst here, as they're the ones getting in trouble if this place gets busted. But for now the life of fast cars pretty girls and free drugs is far to appealing for them to turn down. At the counter we're asked if we want weed or hash, not quite the menus of Amsterdam but what was i to expect so of course when faced with this question i gave surely the only answer, both please, and 1 Moroccan mint tea to wash it all down with. We then sat down and rolled. Despite the situation i never felt uneasy, i figured if the police came i was the last of their worries and everyone in the cafe were suitably friendly as we started to talk to some guys sat next to us.
I know if I have heard of and can track down a coffee shop in London like all the other people in there then I'm sure the police are fully aware of it. I can only assume there must be a very rich crooked copper out there who must be turning a blind eye to this organization. But it just goes to show from openly blazing in front of police in the park to buying delicious hash over the counter, London isn't waiting for change; its just quietly ignoring the rules and moving outside the law whilst continuing to toke peacefully. This coffee shop definitely doesn't stand alone in London and I'm sure there are many more out there. Attitudes toward the drug culture is rapidly changing around the world as we get constant reminders from the tokers across the pond that yet another state has legalized the herb and as more and more countries decriminalize or legalize cannabis it only seems a matter of time before our stubborn government also moves with the times and sees the opportunity it's missing. But until then the tokers and stoners of the country live quietly and will continue to be branded criminals.