CAMPAIGNERS fighting to legalise cannabis claim the tide is turning in their favour as the region’s first pro-cannabis rally passed without a single arrest this weekend.
The ‘Beach BBQ Smoke Out’ – held in Redcar – marked the first time an event of its nature has been held openly in the North-East and with full knowledge of the authorities.
Scores of cannabis users turned out on Saturday for the event organised by the Teesside Pro-Cannabis Movement (TPCM) and the Tyne and Wear Cannabis Club as part of their campaign to legalise and regulate the Class B drug for medicinal purposes.
Police presence was minimal throughout and organisers praised Cleveland Police for allowing the event to pass peacefully and without undue intervention.
TPCM’s John Holiday said: “The tide is turning and things are changing – the police have been friendly and genuine and we’ve worked together to make sure things go off with minimal disruption.
“They said they’d act if they saw any offences being committed and that’s fair enough.
“I thought they’d block anything happening and was surprised not to be met with a brick wall.
“It was a choice of trying to fight the establishment or work with them and now my only regret is not working with them sooner.
“When we started this movement, it was guerilla but this is almost stepping into legitimacy – we’ve done this openly and in the public eye.
“We’re educated, peaceful people with something to give back to the community and for every one person saying no to legalising cannabis, there are three saying yes.”
A 47-year-old woman, who travelled from Newcastle to attend the rally, said: “I’ve been smoking cannabis since I was 18 and I’m not a criminal.
“A lot of my friends do but they wouldn’t admit it because they’re afraid to be criminalised or lose their job.
“I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ve lived a useful life, brought my children up and held down a job.
“People should be allowed to come out in the open – there’s nothing bad about coming here and doing this, it’s about freedom and choice.”
Superintendent Ian Coates from Cleveland Police confirmed the force had liaised with organisers to ensure the protest remained peaceful and people were able to express their views.
He said officers were prepared to take appropriate action in light of any offences being committed.