UKCSC recently caught up with Ben Grout from Devon Cannabis Social Club. He told us about what steps the club is taking to improve the standing of the club in the local area.
UKCSC: Hi Ben, recently you went to see the Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Devon, Alsion Hernandez. Can you tell us what happened?
Ben: “PCC Alison Hernandez hosted an open public session and she was a little surprised to see us. We handed her our letter (see end) and then took most of the 45-minute consultation that was left. It quickly became quite clear that Alsion was on the fence about the issue.”
Ben said that he thought Alison had an emotional attachment to the subject of cannabis as she believes she was addicted to cannabis for four years and that a partner was addicted to it for 20 years. She said that she was intrigued but not very open to it for personal reasons. Ben stated to us that he felt she wasn’t factual about cannabis.
UKCSC: “Interesting development, Ben. So, you told her about your involvement with running a cannabis club and it seems she’s largely unaware of the benefits of cannabis. So what’s the next step?”
Ben: “We are going to send her a follow up letter asking for another meeting where we are going to highlight the positive things that cannabis clubs can stand for, like the beach cleanup project we have just had a successful session with. It’s an indication that it’s not the plant that makes people lazy, it’s lazy people that make people lazy! We enjoy the event because we can engage with the public and bring about more awareness of the plant, and it’s also great to get some exercise and fresh air and meet new people.”
UKCSC: “Cleaning up your community in the name of cannabis, we are proud to hear this Ben. So what is the current situation for cannabis consumers in Devon and Cornwall?”
Ben: “According the PCC there’s a relaxed atmosphere surrounding cannabis but small-scale growers are still being raided. However, if you are caught with a gram or less often a blind eye is turned. We are sad to say though that CBD shops selling CBD flowers have been raided across Devon and Cornwall. So the feeling is one of confusion, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing it seems. So the underground feeling is still there, people are not quite ready to come out about their cannabis use, but I can see it’s changing.”
UKCSC: “So Devon Cannabis Club is growing, what are the plans for the immediate future?”
Ben: “We feel that a place to call our club house is vital, and we need to keep it accessible to all, so disabled access is imperative. Having a safe space to learn about how to best medicate and having the ability to share your struggles with like minded sufferers of the same or similar conditions can bring people out of a depressed state of mind. Community is very important to us, and we try to cater for all, so help to get the best medicine and advice on how to go about growing your own strains to deal with your conditions don’t currently come from your doctor, but you can usually find quite sound advice from people who don’t want to profit from you but genuinely want to see you get better.
“So all that said, we’re focussed on having a team that reflects the club members’ desires, which means having friendly helpful staff to welcome all. Street outreach projects have been very good at identifying the people that might not otherwise be seen to need cannabis. Some people come up and say they heard something on the TV and they’re intrigued; so we are here to offer the most honest version of information surrounding cannabis that we have, our club members testimonials. So yes, more outreach projects to create a better sense of community within the club, and more time on the beach!
“We are going to start charging a membership fee to be able to address the problem of funding for premises. We hope once we have premises people can feel more comfortable than having a smokey bear picnic where facilities are sometimes questionable. There’s more interest than ever, it seems everyone heard there’s a change in the story of cannabis, and people’s ears are open to it.”
Below is Ben’s hand delivered letter to PCC Hernandez, from 14 May.
Dear Police Crime and Commissioner Hernandez,
My name is Ben Grout and I am a senior member of The Devon Cannabis Social Club, based in Plymouth. I am writing to invite you for a meeting with myself to discuss how we can put Plymouth at the forefront within the movement to legalise cannabis, by way of holding responsible educational and community events to assist in the reduction of cannabis-related criminal activities and to give the younger generation the correct information on how to use cannabis for its medical and health benefits.
There is a movement in Durham that has proved to show a reduction in cannabis related crime. It has also had a positive effect on usage of the local police officers’ time and resources, freeing them up to deal with more serious criminal activities. I recently attended an event in Durham on 20 April 2019 at the Bowburn Hall Hotel. This event was an educational social event to provide correct information on how cannabis can assist individuals in a positive way and how to help with crime reduction.
I saw how well the cannabis community in Durham worked when an event was properly organised with minimal effect on the general public. Every attendee of the event abided by the rules laid out by the event organisers and the club. There was a strict no alcohol rule, so there were no rowdy, intoxicated attendees causing any problems. Overall it was a very informative, educational and relaxed event with guest speakers, promotional and information stalls as well as local food and beverage stands that brought in extra revenue for the local community and traders. There was an approximate attendance level of 850 people for a five hour event. Even other hotel guests who were not part of the event commented on how responsible, relaxed and quiet the event had been and how well the clean up crew worked, of which was made up of members of the local Durham cannabis community.
I would like to start the movement in Devon by organising and running some community events, such as beach and park clean-ups, information days, drop-in sessions and harm reduction events. I believe that if Devon can see that the cannabis community is no different from that of any other local club that promotes the wellness, growth and revenue back into the communities within Plymouth and Devon.
I would like to discuss how our club and the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary can work together in educating the public and officers on the beneficial aspects and facts of cannabis, and how we can shape Plymouth and Devon into a responsible cannabis community.
Thank for your time in reading my letter and I would be grateful if you could contact me with a date and time that is convenient for yourself.
Mr Ben Grout