UK Cannabis Social Clubs chairman Greg de Hoedt said the small number of arrests at Green Pride 2019 on 20 July showed the progress the cannabis community has made as a result of the hard graft of activism over the past few years.
Sussex Police said that the event went by “with minimal disruption” despite the force’s “noticeable presence”. There were only two arrests – one man was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis and one man was arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis. One of them was somebody caught weighing up weed in a car. One person, as far as we know, was also stopped and searched outside Preston rail station, where sniffer dogs were deployed. They had 3g of cannabis taken off them without charge.
Officers also made around 30 interventions where cannabis was seized from people and dealt with by various ways including community resolutions. Police officers were handing out leaflets with some quite funky designs informing people that THC “and all cannabinoids” are illegal, including Spice. Many activists were quick to point out the inaccuracy: “CBD and THCa are both unscheduled and do not fall inside the Misuse of Drugs Act,” said Simpa Carter, chairman of Durham City Cannabis Club.
While this is still too many instances of police interfering in people’s private consumption – where there is no victim, there is no crime – considering the event was attended by a record 6,000 people, the number whose day was interrupted was very small.
Release, a drugs charity that has been campaigning for drug users human rights for nearly 50 years, believes the use of sniffer dogs at train stations is unlawful but admits there is not much you can do if you do not want to be on the end of potential physical restraint.
Despite the law and the few police interventions, most had a fantastic day in Preston Park with around 50 vendors setting up booths and displaying their products for sale. Live music performances and DJ sets provided the essential soundtracks for the day, making it a really collaborative community effort.
Addressing the crowd at 4.20pm, Greg thanked Brighton Cannabis Club and other organisers and urged everyone to set up more clubs and events in their areas.
“Make this happen in your town, in your city, in your village green,” said Greg. “If they see us doing it, they can’t stop us all. We’ve got to get out there and do it. For the last five years we’ve had the police coming through, breaking up people’s little groups, arresting people. We’ve come out in force, we’ve told them we’re coming, we’ve worked with them and now they’re not doing it, they’re not arresting people all day. They’re not breaking us up, they’re letting us have a good time. That is the change we are working for.
“It doesn’t happen if we sit inside and stay silent. Join your local club or sign up today.”
He shared the story of how cannabis healed his debilitating Crohn’s disease and pointed out people in the crowd that have had similar experiences, which invited special applause.
UKCSC handed out another 1,000 copies of The Quarter Leaf and engaged with people among the growing cannabis community about setting up something in their towns and cities. The next issue of TQL is due to come out in August, ahead of Product Earth.
The dedicated members of Brighton Cannabis Club were still in the Park two hours after the rest of the protest had ended, packing away the event tent and stage equipment and going around the park to collect every last drop of rubbish, which was pretty minimal thanks to the four huge wheelie bins the council provided for us for the first time.
Sniffer Dog Advice from Release: “The UK does not have any laws or regulations on the police use of sniffer dogs. There is only guidance on their use, which says that people cannot be forced to walk past the dogs, and that the dogs must walk through a crowd and then indicate people. However, every day across the country people are funnelled past sniffer dogs as they come off escalators at rail stations in clear breach of the guidance because it cannot be enforced.
“The police do not have a general power to require you to submit to a dog sniff. However, police will treat attempts to avoid a police dog as reasonable grounds for a search. Release believes this practice is unlawful, but if the police do try to use your attempt to avoid the dog as a ground for searching you, you should not resist the search. You risk both physical injury and serious criminal charges if you physically resist a search. If it is an unlawful search, you should take action afterwards by using the law. Make sure you get a copy of the search record stating that this was the reason you were stopped and searched and seek legal advice.”