CAMPAIGNERS who believe cannabis should be legalised held a protest – dubbed a pot picnic – to raise awareness of their campaign.
The group, from Hampshire Cannabis Community, met despite Saturday afternoon’s changeable weather at Castle Fields, in Southsea, for their fourth annual meeting.
Some members smoked cannabis, while others were simply there to show their support. One person was given a warning from police, who stopped at the two-hour event several times.
Organiser Sy Dignam said: ‘There’s so many reasons that it should be legalised.
‘Firstly the medical. It’s spreading round the world that people are using cannabis for medical reasons and it is working. In 1973 there were tests for medical use and it was proved to work. We need to catch up with the rest of the world on that.
‘On the recreational side, we are just wasting money on the police forces. We could save £600m a year through that (not enforcing it).
‘And also the taxes that the recreational market would bring in is absolutely in the billions. In America, in Colorado, they have made so much money that they have built schools and colleges. It is all going to good uses.’
About 30 people turned up to the event, which saw high winds whip past on the field plus some rain.
One of those was James Sparks, from Leigh Park. James, 33, has neurofibromatosis – a genetic condition that cause tumours to grow along his nerves. James uses a wheelchair and said he smokes cannabis as a way to relieve pain, as well as block out past mental traumas.
He said: ‘The Old Bill are always on my case. It upsets me that the police do not understand. It is a waste of police time. Instead of them going out catching smackheads who are thieving, they would rather go after me.’
Also at the picnic was artist John Green, 40, from Southsea.
He said: ‘My dad and grandad both passed away through cancer, so I got involved with cannabis through its medical side, for its pain relief aspects and the possibility of it helping with symptoms.
‘There has been lots of research done around the world but the government here is behind as its resources are put elsewhere. They really should legalise it.’
Cannabis is a class B drug and it is illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell it in any form in the UK. Possession carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Supply and production is up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, according to the Home Office.
A cannabis picnic held in London’s Hyde Park earlier this year attracted more than 5,000 people and saw the police make 20 arrests.
Figures obtained by the BBC through Freedom of Information requests this year showed that arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have dropped by 46 per cent since 2010.
Its figures also found that cautions fell by 48 per cent and the number of people charged fell by 33 per cent, according to data collected from 32 police forces.