A mystery investor wants to open Essex's first ever cannabis cafe in Witham.

The Dutch-style pot smoking den could open in Witham, if drugs laws change. It would be one of more than a dozen others planned across the country, including Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Liverpool and London.

The plan has been revealed after a Government advisory committee last week called for cannabis to be downgraded from a Class B drug to Class C, leading many campaigners to believe the cafes were now inevitable.

Chelmsford man Chris Philbin, of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA), would run the Witham cafe. He said the opening of the coffee shop would depend on changes in the law.

"We've got an investor who is interested in opening a cafe in Witham and a lot of people have told us they are really up for it. But we're not going to be like other campaigners and just open a shop whatever happens. We will wait and see what changes happen in the law."

Don Barnard, of the LCA, who lives in Aetheric Road, Braintree, said: "As it stands, possession of cannabis is still illegal and you can get up to five years for it.

"But the downgrading would make it possible for people to smoke cannabis in their own homes. So why not let people smoke it in premises where somebody doesn't mind?"

A police spokesman said: "Cannabis does remain an illegal substance and anyone found in possession of the Class B drug will be dealt with accordingly."

Published Thursday, March 21, 2002