East Midlands Cannabis Protest

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On Sunday the 22nd of September 2013, the East Midlands region of the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs held their first cannabis protest at Bass’s Recreation Ground, close to the city centre of Derby. The event was organised and attended by Nottingham, Derbyshire, South Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Burton UKCSCs and was intended to bring together the clubs and the wider public for a day of education and awareness.

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After the drop in temperature and generally wet and miserable weather of the preceding two weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the East Midlands clubs may have missed the boat and left it too late for an outdoor event this year. It was a slight concern for the admins who knew that cold and wet conditions could put people off attending. Any such concerns were laid to rest upon arrival at Bass’s Recreation Ground, where the sun was beating down on the small area of park land chosen to host their first regional public event.

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By 2pm a small gazebo was erected towards the back of the park where a few people had started to gather. Admins, UKCSC members and other members of the public were soon meeting and greeting each other and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere developed from the very start. A steady stream of arrivals wandered over to the gazebo to browse the various information posters displayed, many taking the opportunity to ask questions and enter into discussion about the UKCSC and cannabis in general.

Also catching the eye of many of the visitors were the excellent raffle prizes up for grabs, which included, seeds, papers, grinders, lighters, t-shirts, baseball caps and all kinds of cannabis related goodies kindly donated by companies and organisations such as Futurola, Attitude Seed Bank, CBD Crew and Norml UK.

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It was a great start to the event and by around 3pm there were around 50 people in attendance, including one kind gentleman who relocated his mobile soundsystem from the nearby skatepark to the UKCSC gazebo.

Two reporters from the Derby Telegraph also arrived around this time having been informed about the planned event via a press release issued the previous week. They wasted no time in getting to work, notepad and camera in hand they strolled along and began to look for people to interview.  The journalists were friendly and reassuring regarding any privacy concerns people may have had and seemed keen to give us a voice.  As most of you will probably know, judging the intentions of journalists is a tricky business, but thankfully their pleasant demeanors were seemingly a true reflection of their aim to cover the event from a neutral standpoint and the resulting article, featuring interviews from various admins and attendees was balanced and accurate. Something quite refreshing amidst the all too common sensationalist, inaccurate and potentially damaging write-ups usually associated with mainstream media pieces on cannabis. One potentially thorny issue was raised when two local 16 year old cannabis consumers were interviewed, something which made the final article but not without an accompanying statement explaining that the UKCSC do not promote the recreational use of cannabis by youngsters. This also presented a platform to discuss one of the harms of current drug policy, an unregulated system with no opportunity to restrict use to adults only. This highlighted how a sound knowledge and a little prior planning is very important when approached by journalists.

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The article can be found online, with an accompanying video interview here, http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/VIDEO-Adults-given-right-decide/story-19832669-detail/story.html#axzz2fjjaDZel

So, a quick run through of the checklist; weather, glorious; attendance, great; journalists, satisfied and on their way; music, sorted; raffle draw, scheduled for 4:20! Perfect so far, however there was still something missing . . .  something that other UKCSC events that had taken place over the summer had that this one was lacking. Police! Not one uniformed officer in sight & judging by the lovely smells emanating from the joints in people’s hands, we’d not been infiltrated by any undercover cops either. This seemed odd but was of course very welcome.

It would be naive to jump to any conclusions about the lack of policing, but amongst the most pleasing hypotheses as to their absence is that they are beginning to realise that the people that attend these events are responsible and peaceful adults. With the momentum generated by a summer of UKCSC activities, the various press releases and media coverage and the information available via the UKCSC website, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that police attitudes are beginning to shift. Certainly compared to the harm caused in the region by alcohol, cannabis should logically be at the very bottom of their list of priorities. It’s hard to imagine the police having the appetite to attend a peaceful gathering after what was probably a busy Saturday night taking care of the problems caused by alcohol. You don’t have to look far to discover that alcohol related incidents are a major problem in Derby city centre. The recent alcohol summit organised by Derbyshire Police Commissioner Alan Charles revealed the extent of the problem:

“Official figures show alcohol is believed to have played a part in at least 5,255 offences in 2012/13, just over 10% of all recorded crime.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-23071817

Comparing this to the recorded incidents at the many UKCSC events over the summer could explain the absence of the police.  If this is the case then the strategies employed by the UKCSC appear to working very well, the acceptance of responsible cannabis use seems to be growing.

It was useful to speak to people at the event who had otherwise not heard of the work the UKCSC are doing and to get a perspective from outside the organisation. It is often difficult to evaluate the progression of an organisation’s aims from the inside. The overall response was overwhelmingly positive with many attendees wanting to hear more about the organisation and perhaps get involved themselves.

The event was considered a success and the East Midlands clubs admin teams continue to exchange ideas for future gatherings, educational events, public discussions and other UKCSC related activities, so keep your eyes peeled and get in touch with your local UKCSC. A full list of current clubs can be found here; https://ukcsc.co.uk/official-club-list/1376327_1418132255069202_765252916_nUKCSC T-Shirts aplenty!

Paul – Derbyshire UKCSC