Cannabis ‘awareness’ picnic set for return to Portsmouth

Police and PCSO officers speaking to the public on Castle Field in 2014
Police and PCSO officers speaking to the public on Castle Field in 2014

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ORGANISERS of a ‘cannabis awareness’ event have insisted they are not doing any harm, as police reveal officers will pay ‘passing attention’ to the annual campaign day.

Hampshire Cannabis Community is holding its fourth annual public awareness meeting – dubbed a ‘pot picnic’ – at Castle Field in Southsea on Saturday.

Simon Dignam, known as Sy, runs the group and says the class B drug should be made legal for medicinal and recreational use.

He said: ‘We’re not harming anyone, it’s a few people sitting in a field doing what we enjoy.

‘There’s three million people in this country smoking cannabis and a big majority are medicinal users. People should be able to have it.

‘As far as the recreational side, it would save the police £600m a year and create taxes of billions. It would get it off the market and the dealers off the street.’

The event starts at 2pm and in previous years has been attended by around 70 people.

Sy added: ‘If it was legalised here I would perhaps open up some sort of club.’

People who use the drug, including cancer patients, have previously attended the event, pointing to legal medicinal use in the United States.

But the event has drawn criticism from politicians for the way it was policed in 2014, and in turn the organisers faced criticism from police last year after moving the venue to where a family event was being held.

In a statement, Superintendent Will Schofield, Portsmouth’s most senior police officer, said: ‘Officers will be in the vicinity of Southsea Castle as part of their normal duties and they will pay passing attention to the planned awareness event.

‘They will be available to respond to any calls from members of the public whether involved in the event or otherwise.

‘The police support the right to peaceful protest and expression but will deal with any offences robustly.’