Attacked on day one – the lost cannabis cafe that brought Amsterdam to Stockport

Footage from our archive looks back at the Dutch-style cannabis cafe that came to Greater Manchester before police raids shut down the venue for good. The Dutch Experience, in Stockport, opened in September 2001. Inspired by the cafes of Amsterdam, it inspired other copycat venues to open in other parts of the UK.

With a policy for members over the age of 18, the cafe was tucked away in a small parade of shops less than a two-minute walk from downtown Stockport. Press and photographers were invited inside the venue on several occasions and one reporter described the air inside the cafe as “heavy with a pungent aroma of cannabis” as people openly smoked cannabis. joints and sipping coffee.

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Photographs taken of the venue show that at first glance there was little to distinguish it from any other independent cafe of the time – apart from the prominent ‘legalise’ sign on the wall and the motif decorations of cannabis leaves. There was also a bust of then Prime Minister Tony Blair on the service counter with a joint in his mouth.

People ordered food and drinks and sat down to play cards, play board games and chat. The big difference was that the weed was openly smoked on site. It took around ten minutes before he was raided by Greater Manchester Police. Officers broke in, searched customers and arrested the owner of the cafe, however, the business was later allowed to reopen and continued to operate for several months.

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Outside the Dutch Experience cannabis cafe in Stockport

The cafe attracted media attention from across the region and across the country. We reported that “even on a rainy weekday afternoon, there are over 100 people inside.” The MEN also quoted a member of staff as saying: “It’s not even busy – usually they are crushed back to back. We don’t seem to have quiet periods. From 10am to 10pm it’s full at crack.’

The guestbook included tributes such as “the sweetest place in the world”, “the safe place to relax and get high all the time” and “what we’ve all been waiting for”.



Customers buying drinks and snacks at the Dutch Experience counter
Customers buying drinks and snacks at the Dutch Experience counter

But, despite customers touting the virtues of cannabis, not everyone was happy. A conventional Stockport cafe owner said: “It’s nonsense that the police allowed it to open in the first place, it has a negative effect on Stockport’s reputation.

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Customers sitting around smoking and playing cards in the Dutch Experience cafe
Customers sitting around smoking and playing cards in the Dutch Experience cafe

“People who sell drugs will start hanging around places like this – unbeknownst to the owners perhaps – and you’ll get harder things than selling cannabis.” He added: “And who is there to monitor all of this?”

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Cannabis was openly smoked on site in the form of joints and bongs
Cannabis was openly smoked on site in the form of joints and bongs

It wasn’t meant to last. In 2002, the cafe owner was jailed for three years after being convicted of importing and supplying drugs.

In court, prosecutors said the cafe was an elaborate smokescreen for drug trafficking from the Netherlands. The Dutch experience then closed its doors permanently.

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