Cannabis protest Smokey Bear’s Picnic set to return to Portsmouth

File picture shows the Smokey Bears' Picnic in 1999 on Southsea Common
File picture shows the Smokey Bears' Picnic in 1999 on Southsea Common
  • More people expected at cannabis awareness picnic this summer
  • Successful event last year spawns return of Smokey Bear’s Picnic
  • Organiser calls for legalisation of the class B drug as medical experts warn against its use
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A CANNABIS awareness event that provoked fears over the dangers of the drug is set to be held for a second time.

Hampshire Cannabis Community is aiming to promote medicinal benefits at Southsea Common in August.

And other organisers plan to hold a second event called Smokey Bears’ Picnic with the event’s Facebook page urging people to ‘smoke green’.

That event was originally set up in 1994 protesting about an increase in the fine for possessing the drug and saw scores of arrests by police.

If it goes ahead in July it will be the first one held in the city since 2002.

Simon Dignam, from HCC which is calling for the drug to be made legal, said: ‘Ours is a peaceful awareness picnic. We give out information.

‘We’re hoping for more people than last year.’

He added: ‘With all the advancement of medical marijuana around the world we’re really looking behind.’

But the planned events have prompted a vow from police to crack down on drug use. Inspector Jill Kingston, from Hampshire police, said neighbourhood teams will be on patrol.

Insp Kingston said: ‘While everyone has the right to make a peaceful protest, Hampshire police will not tolerate the use of illegal drugs and any drug use or possession will be dealt with robustly.’

Last year Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones criticised the policing of the event.

But she told The News: ‘I’m really pleased to hear that the police are going to take a more proactive approach in policing this year.’

Cllr Jones added the organisers of both events have not asked for permission to use the land.

She said: ‘It’s an annual event that’s not being done in the proper way.

‘The organiser is not coming to the council and asking to do a public event on the common.’

She added anyone smoking the class B drug should expect to be prosecuted.

But Mr Dignam, 41, from Havant, said: ‘There’s going to be people smoking cannabis, there was people last year – they’re all adults.’

He added: ‘They’re not going to have the resources to waste time with adults smoking. There was no fights or problems.’

Last year dozens of people turned out for the picnic, with many praising the drug’s medical benefits and said it transformed their lives.

But cannabis remains illegal in this country, with punishments ranging from £90 on-the-spot fines for possession to 14 year in prison for supply.

And Dr Janet Maxwell, the city council’s director of public Health said: ‘Cannabis has real and harmful effects on the mind and body.

‘It affects how your brain works and can make users of the drug feel very anxious or paranoid.

‘It is important to dispel the myth that smoking cannabis is safe when it has been linked to serious long-term mental health problems in some people and reduced brain function, which is particularly harmful to young people whose brains are still developing.’

The Hampshire Cannabis Community event is on August 16 on Castle Field and Smokey Bear’s Picnic on July 11 on Southsea Common.

No-one from Smokey Bear’s Picnic was available for comment.