Police criticised after denying cannabis was smoked at Portsmouth ‘pot picnic’

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POLICE have said there was no evidence of anyone smoking cannabis at a ‘pot picnic’ – despite the organiser admitting people did.

Simon Dignam, from Hampshire Cannabis Community, had said people were smoking the illegal drug at the Southsea event last weekend but said there was nothing he could do.

Police chat with people who attended the cannabis awareness picnic in Castle Field, Southsea

Police chat with people who attended the cannabis awareness picnic in Castle Field, Southsea

But when asked by The News if any arrests were made or cautions given, Hampshire Constabulary said there was no cannabis use.

Cllr Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, has criticised the police.

She said: ‘I’m surprised no arrests were made.

‘People have reported to me they could smell cannabis and there was an admission from the organiser.

13/9/14 ''Cannabis awareness picnic on Castle Field.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (142675-3) PPP-140913-161122001

13/9/14 ''Cannabis awareness picnic on Castle Field.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (142675-3) PPP-140913-161122001

‘When you have a cannabis picnic I think it’s inevitable that some people at least will be consuming marijuana.’

She added she will speak to Hampshire police about how the event is policed if it becomes an annual occurrence.

Saturday saw people gather on Castle Field in Southsea for a cannabis awareness picnic. Organiser Mr Dignam had billed the event as a chance to make people aware of the illegal drug’s medicinal benefits.

People suffering from cancer and other conditions told The News how the class B drug is helping them.

As reported, Mr Dignam, 41, from Havant, previously 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 Hayes, Hampshire police and crime commissioner, has defended police.

He said officers would have acted if they were aware of offences taking place.

‘I am assured that officers who policed this event found no evidence to support cannabis use amongst the very small number of people who attended,’ he said.

The event was the first such outing in the Portsmouth area since the final Smokey Bear’s Picnic in 2002.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘Community officers attended the cannabis picnic on Castle Field.

‘The right to raise awareness or peacefully protest was supported although it was made clear that cannabis use was illegal and any offences would be dealt with.

‘Community officers were in attendance throughout the afternoon and the event passed by peacefully with no evidence of cannabis use at the event.

‘No arrests or warnings were necessary.’

Support for drugs use for medical benefits

CAMPAIGNERS handed out material at the picnic, arguing cannabis has medical benefits.

Mark Rogerson, a spokesman for CW Pharmaceuticals, supported the claims.

The pharmaceutical firm has developed Savitex – a cannabinoid medicine and is developing a drug to help defeat cancer.

It is used in Britain to treat people with multiple sclerosis and for pain relief for people who have cancer.

The drug had to undergo 10 years of rigorous testing before it could be produced, Mr Rogerson said.

He added: ‘The stuff one would buy from a dealer is designed to get you high, not to treat a medical condition.’

However, medical experts were also quick to point out the dangers of recreational cannabis use.

Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth City Council, said it can have ‘harmful effects on the mind and body’ as well as links to long-term health problems.