COMMUNITY leaders in Dorchester have expressed fears over a controversial ‘Cannabis Awareness Day’ that will take place in Maumbury Rings tomorrow.
This is to be the first ever event organised by the Dorset Cannabis Community - which is a branch of the UK Cannabis Social Clubs and campaign to de-stigmatise, decriminalise and regulate cannabis consumption.
Event organiser Dave Smith states the event is planned to 'educate the general public on the many positive uses of cannabis such as medicinal, spiritual and industrial use.'
It was originally called a 'smokeup' but Mr Smith changed it to reflect the meeting's intentions.
The event comes after months of work by Dorset Police in Dorchester to curb the spread of class B drug cannabis use among teenagers in the county town.
The fact that the event is near the skate park, used by local teenagers, has councillors and police worried that the over 18's only event may draw attention from a younger crowd.
Inspector Steve Marsh said that people need to keep in mind that cannabis is still a Class B drug and is illegal to possess.
He said: "I respect the right for anyone to discuss the current law and peacefully explain an opposing point of view.
"That is a fundamental right in this country.
"However organisers of the event in question should understand that if any offences are suspected under the misuse of drugs act, my officers will take positive action. "
He added: "I am concerned that the area chosen is used regularly by young people and families and ask that any meeting takes this into account and thinks very carefully about the messages they communicate to those that attend."
Organiser Dave Smith, of Gillingham said: “We chose Dorchester because it was central in the county for our first ever awareness day.
“We have a few members in Dorset now so we wanted to organise this regional meet up to spread the message and therefore we will have several key speakers.
"The Dorset Cannabis Community is working to raise awareness of the many uses of cannabis and the dangers of prohibiting this plant.
“We want to remove the black market trade of cannabis in the UK that is currently controlled by organised criminals who are making huge amounts of money from producing and selling cannabis.
“Organised criminals don't pay tax, they use money raised from cannabis sales to fund other forms of crime such as human trafficking, they are happy to sell to young people in the name of profit and they are not put off by the legality, in fact many are aware that if cannabis was legalised and regulated they would be out of a job.
He added: “You do not have to be a cannabis consumer to get involved and we welcome all peaceful members of society to come and check out what we are doing.
“People can come and smoke at their own risk but anyone aged under the age of 18 will be asked to leave.”
Around the country cannabis social clubs are holding their inaugural public protests or awareness days.
Four weeks ago a similar 'smokeup' event was organised called the Berkshire Cannabis Protest Picnic and police officers from Thames Valley Police turned up to confiscate cannabis from those attending the protest.
Dorchester councillor David Taylor, who sits on the Dorchester Crime Prevention Panel, said he has concerns about the event.
He said: “In Dorchester the police and council have worked very hard to stop the encouragement of using drugs such as cannabis and my concern is that this event will make it look 'cool' to the young people and that it is okay to be part of this set.”
The meeting starts at 2pm but talks will take place from 3pm onwards.
Cannabis and the law
- · Cannabis is a Class B drug - it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
- · Possession is illegal whatever you're using it for, including pain relief. The penalty is up to five years in jail.
- · Supplying someone else can get you fourteen years and an unlimited fine.
- · Supplying friends, even if you give it away, is also considered 'supplying' under the law.
The arguments for and against the legalisation of cannabis
Many influential politicians and celebrities have called for the legalisation of cannabis.
Last month Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton claimed the war on drugs had failed and said decriminalisation was the best way to wrestle power away from criminal gangs.
The UK Cannabis Social Club believe that consumers should not be criminalised or treated differently than any other member of society or culture or those that use another social or medical drug. The group aims to remove the criminal black market and divert funds away from organized crime by replacing it with a community based and or regulated outlets.
UKCSC support the right to domestic cultivation for personal and medicinal use without fear or having their peace breached by the force of the law.
The group say that users should not be forced to buy their cannabis from sources where proceeds go towards real crime or funding gangs that create real victims. This is a completely artificial chain that has been created entirely by the continued enforcement of prohibition.
The United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs say they are here to help bring an end to this by replacing the criminal supply chain with a community based system similar to that which is working in other parts of Europe.
The NHS has issued several warnings about health risks linked to cannabis use.
These include dependency problems, mental health problems and lung damage, further cautions are.
* Even hardcore smokers can become anxious, panicky, suspicious or paranoid.
* It affects co-ordination. Drug-driving is illegal.
* The drug has lots of chemicals, which can cause lung disease and possibly cancer with long term or heavy use.
* Cannabis increases the heart rate and can affect blood pressure.
* It can cause paranoia in the short term, and in those with a pre-existing psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, it can contribute to relapse.
* Strong herbal cannabis (also known as skunk) can cause more powerful dangerous affects.
Panel Cannabis and the law • Cannabis is a Class B drug - it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
• Possession is illegal whatever you're using it for, including pain relief. The penalty is up to five years in jail.
• Supplying someone else can get you fourteen years and an unlimited fine.
• Supplying friends, even if you give it away, is also considered 'supplying' under the law.
Opinion by Inspector Steve Marsh
I am aware that some members of the community want to see certain drugs decriminalised, in particular Cannabis.
One of the arguments used is the medical benefit cannabis can give to those suffering from certain illnesses.
I see this as being an entirely separate argument from the general legalisation of what is currently a Class B drug.
This means it is illegal to possess and supply etc.
My teams have recently carried out several drugs warrants at premises within the town as a result of increased community concern, in particular in connection to the supply of Cannabis to young people.
We continue to work closely with local schools to ensure that all parents and pupils are well informed regarding the risks associated with cannabis.
I am keen to ensure that those most vulnerable are fully aware of the potential risks associated with smoking cannabis not only from a criminal justice point of view but as importantly their own personal health and well being.
I respect the right for anyone to discuss the current law and peacefully explain an opposing point of view.
That is a fundamental right in this country. However organisers of the event in question should understand that if any offences are suspected under the misuse of drugs act, my officers will take positive action.
I am concerned that the area chosen is used regularly by young people and families and ask that any meeting takes this into account and thinks very carefully about the messages they communicate to those that attend.
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