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UK: REVEALED: Campaigners set up illicit cannabis 'speakeasy' on Teesside and attract the attention of rapper Professor Green

Northern Echo

Tuesday 03 Jan 2017

CAMPAIGNERS have flouted drug laws by establishing an illegal ‘speakeasy’ cannabis club in the North-East.

Activists battling to legalise the Class B drug staged sold-out Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations at the top secret Teesside venue, The Northern Echo can reveal.

At the illicit Teesside Cannabis Club, alcohol is strictly banned but visitors are more than welcome to consume marijuana in a social setting.

Throughout the festive season, revellers packed the controversial venue, which is decorated with pro-cannabis material and sells a variety of marijuana-related items.

Those running the operation insist no drug dealing takes place on the premises, claiming that they do not encourage law breaking but do not stop people bringing in their own cannabis.

One of the first people to learn about the club was famed rapper Professor Green, who interviewed Teesside Cannabis Club’s chair, John Holliday, as part of an upcoming BBC documentary series about the debate to legalise marijuana.

Mr Holliday is also the organiser of the annual Cannacamp festival in Redcar and devotes much of his life to pushing for a change in law to allow for the legalisation and regulation of cannabis.

He said the members-only club would operate in a similar fashion to coffee shops in Amsterdam and other venues across the world, where cannabis is legal and openly smoked.

Mr Holliday said: “It is somewhere to go where people can be social – what we’re doing should be happening across the UK.

“It’s also about raising awareness and letting people know about the positive benefits of cannabis.

“It’s a social club without drink, we sell other refreshments and it’s a safe space - members of the public can’t stumble across us or just walk in, you have to sign up in advance and find out the location 24 hours before.

“We’re just pushing the boundaries a bit and hope cannabis social clubs spring up across the country as a result.

“It’s inevitable that this will spread and there’s nothing that can be done about it – cannabis clubs meet up in temporary locations all the time, all we’ve done is formalise it in bricks and mortar.”

At the time of going to print, Cleveland Police were unavailable for comment but the force has previously said it will continue to enforce existing drugs laws.

Last year, they investigated Mr Holliday after receiving noise complaints relating to live music at his cannabis-friendly festival in Redcar.

Recently, Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said he backed calls for a Royal Commission that would scrutinise UK drug law.

He added: “We need to look at all aspects and a Royal Commission would address all arguments and I hope one day we get a government that would do that but successive governments have fallen short. “However, as long as the law is the law, the police must enforce it.”




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