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Chris Baldwin

Winston Matthews is a campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis who was sentenced to sixteen months in prison after being busted five times for growing cannabis. Since then the appeal court has reduced his sentence down to twelve months. He is currently just over three months into his sentence in HMP High Down.

I have known Winston for about 11 years. We met through a man called Lyndon Pugh who was the editor for the magazine CCNews (Cannabis Community News). At first we were just casual friends but that all changed when I decided to open a Dutch-style coffeeshop in Worthing in 2002.

After renting the shop the next job was to get it ready for business. Winston turned up on day one and offered his services. There was a lot of really hard work to get through before we could open our coffeeshop and nobody worked harder than Winston. It didn’t matter how dirty or unpleasant the job was, Winston took it on with gusto and enthusiasm, despite the constant pain he suffered from his back. He didn’t want payment, we just had to keep him well medicated and we did. He also stayed at my place as it was too far for him to commute from home. During this time we got to know each other really well and became close friends.

Coffeeshop CultureAs the work continued we dumped various scrap (bits of wood etc) out the back of the shop. One day I noticed that it was getting really untidy so I asked Winnie to grab some help and sort it out. After he had tackled the task on his own he came and told me that it was done. I went out to see and was truly amazed because not only had he tidied it up but he had turned all the rubbish into a work of art that was actually pleasing to look at.

The best coffeeshop story I can tell you to demonstrate the man’s character is this:
The first time we got busted we knew they were coming before they arrived (phone call). The person in the dealer’s booth was related to Winston, so Winnie went and raked him out and took his place. I later asked Winnie why he didn’t just leave the booth empty and he told me that if it was empty the police would ask customers who was in the booth? And if that happened someone might point a finger at Winnie’s relative. However if there was someone in the booth the question would not be asked. This means Winnie took the rap to protect someone else. This action can only be described as noble.

After the coffeeshop project finished we continued to campaign together. We have attended protest marches and rallies, political conferences, meetings and various events. We’ve been cold, wet, tired and arrested but I have never seen his enthusiasm wane.

In recent years I have stepped back and sought a quiet life but not Winston. His very actions of, growing, getting busted and growing again is his personal protest. He knew that he was heading for big trouble but refused to capitulate. Winston is politically motivated and in my opinion a political prisoner. If we all had his courage cannabis would be legal by now.

Winston Matthews is my friend. Over the years we’ve had our differences but I love the man and hold him in very high esteem. His courage and dedication to our cause is second to none. His determination to overturn an unjust law has put him in prison and being in prison has left him without his medication and in pain.

We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude because he is, Winston the Lionheart.

By Chris Baldwin

Please Join the group – FREE WINSTON MATTHEWS on Facebook.

You can also read a statement from Winston Matthews’ son – My Dad, Winston Matthews

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