The UK’s first cannabis restaurant was raided after police saw an advert for a spliff rolling competition, a court heard today.
The Canna Kitchen’s sister shop, the Hemp Earth Dispensary, announced it was holding “rolling tryouts” to find someone to roll spliffs for them for £10 an hour.
An undercover policeman went along to the joint premises in Duke Street, Brighton, and saw a variety of hemp on sale, which he took away for analysis.
Low levels of THC, the psychoactive substance which gives cannabis its high, were found and the shop was raided a few weeks later.
Today the owner, Sammy Ben Rabah or Sam Evolution, went on trial at Hove Crown Court charged with two counts of possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
Prosecuting, Robin Miric said: “At the start of 2019, the dispensary put an eye-catching advert in the Metro newspaper for a spliff rolling contest and invited the best to come to the shop and take part in what they said was lawfully rolling CBD flowers.
“These are part of the cannabis plant.
“The prosecution say this was an eye catching exercise to try and encourage people to visit the shop in question, the dispensary.
“But it wasn’t just members of the public who saw the advert. Unfortunately for the proprietor the police also saw it.”
He said that on the day of the tryouts, 7 March 2019, PC Vincent Lam went along in plain clothes and saw a range of herbal substances, bongs and cannabis grinders on display in large glass cabinets.
He heard a member of staff advising customers they could buy hemp to treat insomnia at the shop, or online.
PC Lam showed his warrant card, and the staff member fetched Ben Rabah, 34, who told him that he was selling hemp with a level of a substance called THC at less than 0.2 per cent.
THC is the psychoactive substance which produces the high from smoking most cannabis.
Mr Miric said: “He maintained his activities were therefore legal and that he had a home office document setting this out.
“He did have a document, but he had not been granted a licence to sell cannabis products.
“Cannabis is a class B drug and it’s an offence to possess, cultivate or sell that drug.
“The amount of THC varies between different strands and cultivations . . . but there are no exemption levels or levels of THC which would make the material legal.
“Any detectable amount of THC means it’s illegal.”
PC Lam took some of the hemp on sale away with him, and it was examined by a lab, which found low but detectable levels of THC present.
Police then returned to the restaurant and the shop and seized all the hemp, worth an estimated £22,000, on 8 May.
Ben Rabah, who lived in Mill Rise, Brighton and has now moved to Bristol, was interviewed under caution, and other than a prepared statement saying he believed the hemp he sold was legal, he made no comment.
He was charged after a lengthy investigation in February 2020.
The restaurant has been closed since the raid, and gave up its lease shortly after. It has now become a vegan restaurant.
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