Sowing seeds of debate

22:45, Jun 26 2012
DROP IN: Cannabis users would be welcome in the the back garden of The Garden of the Temple of Dreams Fine Filter Coffee House which is to open next month.
DROP IN: Cannabis users would be welcome in the the back garden of The Garden of the Temple of Dreams Fine Filter Coffee House which is to open next month.

The man who plans to take on Julie Hardaker for Hamilton's mayoral chains wants a public debate on the marijuana laws, and is encouraging people to smoke the drug on the premises of his soon-to-be-opened Victoria St cafe.

But police say he can expect a visit from them if the plan goes ahead.

Andrew Johnstone, who ran for mayor in 2010, is close to opening his "creative project", called The Garden of the Temple of Dreams Fine Filter Coffee House.

Andrew Johnstone
Andrew Johnstone

The space has been created out of recycled and donated materials and a modest $500.

But it is his stance on the smoking of marijuana that will likely generate the most attention.

"It will be okay to smoke pot here," he said. "I want to start a debate on the issue."

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The smoking would be confined to the back garden area, an enclosed area, the walls of which are covered with colourful artworks by local street artists.

There will be no tables and chairs.

"There will be benches to sit on, to stand and lean against, we want to create the feel of sitting on a back porch," Mr Johnstone, who did not wish to be photographed for this story, said.

The idea has drawn praise from former Green MP Nandor Tanczos, an advocate for the liberalisation of marijuana laws. Mr Tanczos, who lives in Ngaruawahia, likened Mr Johnstone and his "coffee house" to the first seeds of what was sown long ago in the Netherlands.

"If you look at what has happened in Holland, there you have the lowest rates of hard drug use and addiction in the world.

"They have a successful policy based on adults being allowed to make their own decisions (on cannabis use)," Mr Tanczos said.

But police are not so thrilled with the idea and have promised swift action if anyone is caught smoking marijuana on the premises.

"Quite simply, the smoking of cannabis and allowing a premises to be used for the smoking of marijuana is against the Misuse of Drugs Act," said Hamilton area commander Rob Lindsay.

"The smoking of marijuana is not allowed and if we become aware of such going on, then we will take the steps that need to be taken.

"And that means he can expect a visit from us."

The Garden of the Temple of Dreams Fine Filter Coffee House opens in three weeks.

Waikato Times