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UK: Legalise cannabis event to be held in Birmingham park
Sunday 25 Aug 2013
If you go down to the park next weekend you’re in for a big surprise.
Because protesters are due to set up camp in Birmingham’s Cannon Hill Park to campaign for cannabis to be legalised.
Organisers of the demonstration say they are prepared to flout current laws – and smoke the banned drug in front of police.
They claim at least 200 supporters will attend the event which has much support in across the West Midlands where one house in every three streets grows cannabis .
Birmingham Cannabis Club says so far 134 people have confirmed that they will be joining them in Birmingham’s most popular park, which is next door to West Midlands Police training headquarters Tally Ho!
And many more have pledged support on the club’s Facebook page for the protest on Saturday August 31 from 1pm.
Organiser Matt Towers said: “The whole point of doing this is to raise awareness that cannabis does have significant therapeutic values for medical conditions, but also we believe strongly that people shouldn’t be made into criminals for something that is a personal choice.
“We’re not asking to be allowed to go walking down the street smoking a big joint, we’re just asking to be left alone in the privacy of our own homes.
“Cannabis has been used during the past 10,000 years for clothing, paper, food, plastics... and there is significant research to suggest it can help with lots of medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, depression and more.
“People are welcome to come and smoke, but we’re adamant that there will not be any dealing.
“We don’t promote cannabis use, we promote freedom of choice.”
But Birmingham City Councillor Deidre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) is among those opposing the campaign.
She said: “There are quite a few dangers surrounding this drug.
“Firstly, cannabis use can lead users on to other drugs, including some of the most harmful Class A illicit substances.
“Secondly, people can have mental health issues as a result of using cannabis and thirdly, because it is illegal it brings people into contact with drug dealers and that whole underground world.
“I hope that police will take the strongest action possible at this protest.”
Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham Birmingham Cannabis Club will stage their protest in Cannon Hill Park
West Midlands Police have set up a specialist Cannabis Disposal Team, dedicated to dismantling drugs farms.
Since its launch in October 2010, the team has recovered more than £22 million worth of the drug in the West Midlands.
Superintendent Alison Telford said “We are aware that this event is being advertised online – however we haven’t been contacted by the organisers to notify us of their plans.
“We are currently working with the council and the park to gather as much information as possible and we are also trying to trace the organisers to discuss our concerns about this event with them.
“Possessing these kinds of recreational drugs is illegal and anyone found to be breaking the law will be dealt with accordingly.”
Birmingham City Council, which owns Cannon Hill Park, has previously said that to earlier cannabis protests planned at the venue were ‘inappropriate’.
But the local authority has declined to comment on the latest event.
The organisers have already held protests on the Malvern Hills and in Colwick Park in Nottingham, this year.
They are hoping to lure in more supporters handing out information leaflets about the alleged medical benefits of taking cannabis on the day, guest speakers, music and merchandise giveaways.
They said the event is part of a wider ‘normalisation movement’ being led by the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Club, which has around 40 off-shoot groups including Birmingham Cannabis Club.
But previous pro-cannabis events in Cannon Hill Park have proven a bit of a damp squib.
A planned protest inviting people to smoke cannabis at the city’s most popular park in 2007 failed to take place.
It was originally listed on the council’s What’s On Page under the alias ‘Smokey Bear’, but embarrassed bosses swiftly removed it after being told what it stood for by a newspaper reporter.
A council spokeswoman said at the time: “We do not consider this unauthorised gathering to be an appropriate use of a public park and have not agreed for it to take place at Cannon Hill.”
And a festival which was expected to draw crowds of more than 200 to Cannon Hill Park in 2004 was said to have gone to pot when just one person showed up.
Protesters are campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis
Cannabis and the law
Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Britain, according to NHS Choices.
It is also known as marijuana, weed, hash, draw, blow, puff, ganja, spliff, skunk, pot, herb and black grass.
It was downgraded to a Class C drug in 2004 under Tony Blair’s Labour government but was reclassified as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in 2009 when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.
The maximum penalty for supplying [dealing] or producing cannabis is 14 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Anyone found with the drug in their possession could face jail sentences from two to five years.
A new ‘escalation’ penalty system for cannabis possession means that the penalty issued is directly related to the number of times an individual has previously been caught in possession of the drug.
If an adult is caught in possession of cannabis:
1. for the first time – they will be issued with a cannabis warning.
2. for the second time – they will receive a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND) for cannabis possession, which carry an £80 on-the-spot fine.
3. for the third time – police officers will consider further action, including release without charge, caution, conditional caution or prosecution.
4. any additional times – According to government statements ‘all subsequent offences are likely to result in arrest’.
Recreational drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, but there is an official policy of tolerance and thousands of tourists visit Amsterdam each year to sample cannabis in the city’s famous coffee shops.
Cannabis is legal in some states in America for medicinal purposes.
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