THE use of cannabis is steadily moving away from being a taboo subject, according to users in Portsmouth.
People in Portsmouth who use the drug met at Eastney Beach on Sunday, August 3, for an annual cannabis picnic.
The event, now in its seventh year, has grown in size as users become more confident in speaking about it and the taboo around it continues to fade away.
Cannabis is a class B drug, the same as amphetamine and ketamine – with the maximum penalty for possession being five years in prison.
Organiser Simon Dignam started smoking the drug when he was 15-years-old.
He says the continued promotion of the drug’s medicinal benefits has led to greater public understanding of what cannabis can do for people.
‘Because it’s always in the media now, people are coming round to it,’ he said.
‘It’s not a bad drug and I think people are starting to realise that now.
‘In the past people would turn their noses up at the thought of the drug and walk away – now we have people asking us questions about what cannabis can do for them.’
A variety of stalls pitched up at the Eastney picnic, selling equipment, merchandise, and food to keep bellies full.
But those at the event were all too aware that cannabis is still a drug, and like all drugs can be misused.
Simpa Carter, 30, said: ‘I started taking cannabis when I was 15 and was definitely abusing it.
‘I’d been through a lot of trauma as a child and it was an escape for me.
‘Now I know that I was going over-the-top with it.
‘It’s a drug that can be regulated but it should be done so by the right people – I would rather have someone who knows their stuff when it comes to cannabis regulating it, rather than someone with a university degree who’s never experienced it in their life.’
Angie Smith, 49 from Portsmouth, has been taking cannabis regularly as medicine – on the recommendation of her doctor.
She said: ‘Cannabis genuinely changed my life.
‘I’ve been smoking it since I was 20 to help with my anxiety and PTSD.
‘When I first started taking it, I immediately stopped having nightmares and could fall asleep much more easily.
‘The fact that my doctor had so many drugs at his disposal, but still recommended cannabis above everything else, goes to show just how beneficial it can be.
‘The cannabis community has always known this, but I believe everyone else is now seeing exactly how it can help, especially with things like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.’
Throughout the afternoon, users and non-users sat together on the seafront, chatting and unwinding.
Alexis Pocock, 18 from Basingstoke, smokes cigarettes but not cannabis.
She said: ‘I came down just for today.
‘I don’t see anything wrong with taking cannabis, and there has been so much research into how it can help people.’