The government’s planned reclassifying of cannabis finally took place in January 2004 after parliamentary and press pushback delayed the change. So in March 2005, ‘The Chillin’ Rooms’ opened its doors for the first time and within 6 weeks it had amassed 400 regular members.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Merseyside police became aware of the private coffeeshop and it was subsequently raided in March 2005 and then again a few weeks later in April 2005. This resulted in Gary being given a conditional discharge. After the second raid, Gary said that “I wasn’t expecting this kind of attention” and “’we are doing nothing wrong, all we want is tolerance”.
Gary continued to operate ‘The Chillin Rooms’ in defiance of the conditions of his discharge. In April 2006 he was then sentenced to 12 months in prison for continuing to “flagrantly break the law” by operating the unlawful coffeeshop. During the trial, his defence told the court that “Mr Youds had assumed a change in the law would lead to police relaxing their approach to cannabis use”.
A slight misnomer as there is nothing about the individual use of cannabis in British law. Only the unauthorised, non-except, and unlicensed possession, supply, and cultivation/production of cannabis is criminalised for the individual. In 2007 Gordon Brown’s government announced a review of the current cannabis classification before ultimately reclassifying it from a class C to a class B schedule 1 drug in January 2009.
The Chillin Rooms was again raided in June 2015 after Gary had continued to operate the criminalised coffeeshop over the previous years. This resulted once again in Gary’s imprisonment in January 2017, this time for nine months. The coffeeshop reopened later that year to the delight of the local cannabis community.
Although he didn’t start as one, as the decades have gone by, Gary has now become a medicinal consumer. Using cannabis for ongoing back pain, arthritis, mental distress and trauma caused by decades of demonization by police, countless arrests, time in prison, and numerous violent raids on both his home and ‘The Chillin’ Rooms.’
Again in October 2020, Gary was arrested in possession of 40 syringes containing FECO (full extract cannabis oil) two pre-rolled joints, and 6g of resin. A subsequent raid resulted in the discovery of additional syringes of FECO, cannabis flower, and resin at his home. It would be revealed later that Gary was supplying the oil free of charge to a terminal cancer patient in Birmingham.
In the second half of 2021 ‘The Chillin Rooms’ reopened. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it and Gary’s home were once again raided. The police found six “very large and well-maintained” cannabis plants that were described by the force as being “6ft tall and 3ft wide” and “some of the largest plants the officers had ever seen” – A real testament to Gary’s green thumbs and horticultural skills.
Gary’s trusting and enthusiastic nature coupled with his passionate vision for ‘The Chillin Rooms’ has left him vulnerable and exposed to the British judicial system for twenty years. During this time many misguided and misinformed individuals both well and ill-intentioned have misled Gary into believing in legal fallacies and misinterpretations of the UK’s drug laws.
Over the years many individuals have become involved with Gary promising him large investments, legal protection, cultivation and commercial licenses only for nothing meaningful to ever materialise. While these individuals gained financially, socially, and egoically from their association with Gary and ‘The Chillin’ Rooms.’ When the shit hit the fan it’s ultimately Gary that ends up in a prison cell alone.
This brings us to early February 2023, when Gary was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty in an earlier hearing to the ‘production of cannabis’, ‘possession of cannabis with intent to supply’, and ‘cannabis possession.’
It is uncertain why Gary was given such a lengthy custodial sentence this time around. It is currently thought that the judge’s belief that Gary was “commercially benefiting from his farm”, a claim anyone who personally knows Gary would refute, and the production charge is responsible for the high sentence.
We do however know that the police initially wanted to link Gary’s October 2020 arrest to so-called ‘county lines’, however, this ridiculous claim wasn’t pursued by the police thanks to intervention by his then legal representative. There are currently several organisations and groups working behind the scenes to try and get Gary connected with legal assistance to help launch an appeal before the time runs out.
Thanks to the tireless campaigning of Gary Youds ‘The Chillin Rooms’ became one of Liverpool’s’, if not the UK’s best underground music venues and cannabis social spaces. His work along with the other previously mentioned pioneers arguably helped lay the foundations for the UKCSC movement and the various underground and still criminalised clubs and coffeeshops that currently operate across the UK.
Millions of pounds have been wasted persecuting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Gary and others like him. The world and the British public’s attitude towards cannabis have evolved and changed over the two decades Gary has been trying to lawfully open and operate ‘The Chillin Rooms’.
Since Gary first had his vision for ‘The Chillin Rooms’ in 2002, a version of his private member, home-grown supply, not-for-profit, cannabis coffeeshop model has been refined in Spain. While it remains nationally unlawful there are still several hundred cannabis social clubs currently operating thanks to the de facto decriminalisation/depenalisation of personal possession and cultivation of cannabis offences, and the right to individual association.
So now that more people than ever in the UK support an end to cannabis prohibition and the criminalisation of individuals for cannabis offences. Then why isn’t this country addressing this glaring hypocrisy, injustice, and ongoing human rights violation?
We have seen the impact of multinational and venture capital-backed ‘legalisation’, Everywhere that cannabis-related activities have been ‘legalised’ the illicit, unregulated, and criminalised market continues to grow and thrives. No amount of arbitrary and artificially restrictive legal regulations, exorbitant license fees, dystopian social equity lotteries, or quiet increases in penalisation are going to stop the legacy market anywhere.
Shouldn’t we first allow the cannabis consumers, community, and culture the chance to showcase their talents, skills, and craft before we even entertain so-called ‘legalisation’ in the UK? Personally, I think the only right thing to do now is for the UK to immediately release all peaceful individuals that have been convicted of cannabis-related offences, expunge their records, and decriminalise/de-penalise all such cannabis-related offences.