With a fantastic amount of cannabis protest picnics taking place this summer by a wide variety of cannabis clubs across the UK, it was only fair that Hampshire Cannabis Community followed suit. Having been organised and promoted by HCC admin Emma Wilson the event which was held at Basingstoke’s Eastrop Park on Saturday 21st September, was the first of its kind for Hampshire.
At 1pm the park was fairly bustling and the sun had yet to break through the grey clouds but spirits were high. The location was a good choice, groups had already gathered alongside some trees overlooking the boating lake and a few newspaper reporters had already begun interviewing campaigners and taking photos. Journalist Emily Roberts and a photographer from the Basingstoke Gazette were engaging with people who had settled, at the same time an additional freelance reporter happily puffed on what I thought was a cannabis cigarette whilst chatting away to a group of smokers. It was a successful start to the day with at least 25 early supporters at the picnic sharing stories with the presence of only one police officer, who seemed a fairly reasonable man although perhaps reluctant to express his true opinion.
By 2pm many more people had gathered and the protest picnic was in full swing. We appreciated the continued support as admins from Surrey, London, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Kent and other south regional clubs began to arrive.
Al Mundo Man, aka Alan Pavia, admin of Surrey Cannabis Club and also PR and Media Director for Norml UK, made great progress signing up new members to Norml UK hopping between groups and educating members of the public, many of whom are completely unaware of the multitude of issues regarding cannabis, and medical patients who need this alternative. We were extremely pleased to have Lesley Reynolds, treasurer for Norml UK, and other board members to attend, helping us out by bringing along a big banner and handing out wristbands and stickers to attendees.
The numbers grew larger and larger and at it’s peak at least 70 had gathered at one point, with up to 100 coming and going throughout the day. It was a mixed demographic with all ages stopping by to roll up a joint similar to the atmosphere of 420 at London’s Hyde Park, relaxed and friendly with an interesting group of like-minded people. The ‘stoner stereotype’ was definitely diminished as individuals shared well thought out and logical arguments against current drug policies, moving onto talks about the system of a regulated market and not to mention the damn right stupidity of the current UK laws. Unfortunately as more people arrived the police and PCSO presence did become heavier but as they wondered around the park everybody managed to get sufficiently high.
Time flew by as I was busy chatting to and sharing ideas with local residents of Basingstoke who came along to show their support, including Herbie, an admin of Hampshire Cannabis Community, who talked about how he uses cannabis as pain relief for symptoms of hyper mobility syndrome. The picnic was still going strong as UKCSC South Regional Manager Clark French turned up shortly after Andy Bishop and partner Annamarie with some delicious cakes! The event was very positive, and later on another couple of media reporters arrived and grabbed some photo opportunities, and Mookbox made a killer beat entrance to top it off! Supporters were thoroughly impressed with his suitcase sound system, and even though more boys in blue appeared, the music meant no end to the good vibes.
“It was a great day both in terms of media attention and networking between like minded people” said Clark French, “Hampshire Cannabis Community proved that they are just that – a community of people brought together by their love of the cannabis plant. Many medical and recreational consumers of cannabis were able to meet people who share a similar view that cannabis prohibition needs to end.”
Sadly, with the growing popularity and awareness of the stoner’s traditional 4:20 celebration, police were there with precision timing and in unnecessarily large numbers to prevent us from lighting up the many lovingly pre-rolled joints. Unfortunately their presence deterred many and groups slowly faded as the time ticked towards 5pm when we announced the winners of the raffle, luckily all of which we still in attendance, and 5 fantastic bundles of prizes were won after many tickets were sold.
Overall, especially taking into consideration a fairly large and lingering police presence and with it being the first event for Hampshire Cannabis Community, I would call it a massive success! Large amounts of people remained throughout most of the day accompanied by an unexpected yet highly welcomed amount of press attention too. We wanted to provide a day for which anyone can attend to talk about any of the issues surrounding cannabis, as well as inviting passers by and non-consumers to stop and chat so they can find out for themselves the wonders of cannabis. I think it is safe to say that was achieved!
Well done to Emma Wilson, and thank you to our neighbouring cannabis clubs for coming along, you were all a tremendous help!
By Joe Payne