JOURNALISM is a weird and mostly wonderful industry to work in, providing as it does the opportunity to become embedded in a variety of bizarre scenarios.

On Monday I was treated to the surreal sight of my 67-year-old mother surrounded by bongs, chatting to a pro-cannabis activist through clouds of smoke at Teesside Cannabis Club’s clandestine headquarters.

I don’t usually take her with me to interviews but we had theatre tickets and a tight schedule, meaning she had no choice but to accompany me to the region’s only cannabis ‘speakeasy’, situated in a less than salubrious spot on the outskirts of Middlesbrough.

The Northern Echo:

CELEBRITY: Jeremy Kyle speaks to campaigners at Teesside Cannabis Club

We were hoping to meet the controversy-courting Jeremy Kyle, who was visiting the club to film an upcoming episode of The Kyle Files. I’d been looking forward to watching a debate unfold between Mr Kyle and club members, most of whom buck the stoner stereotype in retaining scientific levels of knowledge about marijuana.

It was not to be – Mr Kyle and his bodyguard ‘Security Steve’ would not leave their car until my mother and I had left the club, as a production crew did their best to keep his visit under wraps.

The antics of TCC (which have so far included two cannabis-themed festivals and the threat to plant the drug at landmark locations throughout the North-East) have been highly visible. I’d also half expected a police raid but none materialised.

Club members believe their actions are all but legitimised by the “open and transparent” way they purport to work with the local authorities and the high-profile nature of their campaign.

TCC are fighting for a change in UK law to allow marijuana to be produced, regulated and consumed legally – an approach increasingly adopted in other countries.

They want to clean up the streets by taking cannabis out of the hands of black market dealers and they’re part of a network attempting to help those who rely on cannabis to alleviate symptoms associated with cancer, arthritis and other conditions. TCC operates in plain sight without reprimand – members claim to enjoy a good relationship with the police and are so bold that they have now clocked up two documentary appearances without fear, making no effort to obscure their identities on screen.

However, along with the majority of cannabis consumers, they exist in a liminal space, at once tolerated and vilified by the authorities. They operate out of illicit dens as they appear on primetime TV shows, are invited to police symposiums on drug strategies as they continue to flout laws they believe are unjust. They smuggle cannabis to cancer-sufferers with the threat of criminalisation over their heads, struggling to identify a victim of their crime as they’re hauled before the courts.

This bizarre and contradictory state of affairs is a direct product of the UK government’s muddled and outdated approach to drug legislation and it epitomises the need for reform. Prohibition partly governed by moral panic drains resources, is ultimately ineffective and allows a dangerous black market to thrive.

A careful re-consideration of cannabis in the context of regulation, education and economics is long overdue – the sooner the debate comes out of the smoking dens and into Parliament, the better.