Criticism over Portsmouth ‘pot picnic’ as users smoke in public

Devida Bushrod (front) with (l-r) Maddy Bushrod (13),  Devida's husband Jason, Mark Loudon (nine), mum Sarah Loudon, Ruth Loudon (10), and Angela Kerfoot. Picture Ian Hargreaves  (171556-1)

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CANNABIS campaigners have held the first ‘pot picnic’ in Portsmouth for 12 years – but are now facing criticism after some users openly smoked the drug in public.

Dozens went to the event, which organisers said was about awareness of what they say are the illegal drug’s benefits.

The cannabis awareness picnic at Castle Field, Southsea. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (142675-6)

The cannabis awareness picnic at Castle Field, Southsea. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (142675-6)

Police attended but city council leader, Councillor Donna Jones, was unhappy about the way the event – the first since the final Smokey Bear’s Picnic on Southsea Common in 2002 – was policed.

Cllr Jones, a magistrate said: ‘I will be taking this up with the chief inspector for Portsmouth and urgently reviewing the situation.

‘I criticise anybody who is smoking any kind of illegal substance, particularly if they are doing it in public.

‘It’s a deplorable situation when young children are subjected to the smoke and smell from a very strong drug.’

Organiser Simon Dignam said he was not responsible for people smoking.

‘This one is going successfully, I can’t see a reason why we wouldn’t have one next year,’ he said.

‘They are smoking but there’s nothing I can do about that, it’s a personal preference. I personally haven’t had one, because I want to have a level head.’

Simon, from Hampshire Cannabis Community, had attracted campaigners, recreational users, families and people who use the drug medicinally to the day.

Hazel Pannell was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. Doctors discovered it spread and she believes she has around five years to live.

She told The News she takes the drug in oil form in the hope it would cure her.

The 65-year-old from Worthing said: ‘Hopefully it will cure it or stop it spreading. The legality is a worry, a constant concern and the fact that it’s difficult to get hold of, too.’

It comes as Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health in Portsmouth, last week told The News that the class B drug has real and harmful effects on the human body and mind, including a link to ‘serious, long-term health problems’.

As reported, reform advocates have since criticised Dr Maxwell for her ‘scaremongering’ comments and said they will complain to the city council about her.

At the picnic on Saturday, held at Castle Field, in Southsea, many users of the drug said it brought them benefits.

Stevie Sizer, 33, from Milton, said it had changed his life.

He said: ‘I won’t hide the fact that I do smoke it myself, I have done for 18 years.

‘I started smoking it purely because I had anger management problems and depression at a young age, 13 or 14.

‘It completely changed my life. I still smoke it to this day, as recreational use and for medicinal purposes.’

Hampshire police were unable to confirm to The News if any arrests were made at the picnic but said they would make a comment today.

Business owner selling seeds wants drug to be legal

A COMPANY in the city is thriving selling cannabis seeds – but its owner has said legalising the drug would bring in tax cash.

Martin Bear, who runs the online retailer with 11 people and was at the event on Saturday, said: ‘The war on drugs isn’t working.

‘At the moment it’s a free-for-all. They’re not making any tax or VAT. The government has abandoned it to organised crime.’

But Mr Bear, from Fawcett Road, in Southsea, added selling seeds is legal. He said: ‘Seeds are 100 per cent legal to buy, possess, give away – the problem starts when you water them.’

To read The News’ view on this issue click here.