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UK: 'Cannabis club' where members can smoke openly could open in Durham
Wednesday 30 Oct 2019
Police have branded plans which could see a cannabis club open in County Durham unhelpful in the fight against crime.
Club Exhale could open in County Durham next spring.
It is believed it would be the first so-called 'cannabis club' in the North East outside of Teesside.
Organisers insist it would be a "safe place" for people to use cannabis socially and Durham Constabulary has previously stated it would stop pursuing people smoking cannabis in private.
However, unlike a pub or bar, members for the private venue would need to register to join and unsavoury applicants could be turned away.
Addressing the planned venue, a force spokesperson said: "As we have previously said, we are not going to target individuals who smoke a joint in their own home, we actively target the dealers and organised crime groups who are harming our communities, not the low level users."
However, the spokesperson said those caught using it in public "may be arrested", adding: “Allowing people to openly commit offences is not conducive to a law-abiding society and anyone who buys cannabis needs to understand the close link between drug supply and organised crime.
“Branding a premises that would appear to encourage unlawful drug-use is not helpful to that debate.”
Praising the force's liberal approach to policing the drug, one of the people behind the proposed venue said it showed attitudes towards cannabis were becoming more relaxed.
And Michael Fisher said he hopes within a few years every major British town and city will have a similar venue which he insists helps to reduce drug-related crimes.
"The people who use these are not criminals," insisted Mr Fisher, who helped kickstart Teesside's Cannabis Club, thought to be the first in Britain.
Rather than the "outdated" image of a drug den, he said many members sit around listening to music or play on an Xbox. Some don't even smoke the drug, instead using oils or edibles.
"We have teachers, bankers and NHS staff who use these facilities and most members are over 35. Some are over 60," said Mr Fisher.
"There's no violence, or crime, or a reason for people to call the police."
Mr Fisher claims the transparent nature of the club is often the biggest deterrent for "undesirables".
"They think we are police informers, and the club isn't somewhere that they would want to be seen," he added.
"They'd rather go and deal with street dealers then purchase fair trade cannabis that's been sourced proeprly.
"But the people we stand out to are those who have 9-5 jobs and enjoy the safety of coming to this place."
"And the venue reduces the need to integrate with the black market, so I personally feel these venues should be all over the country and be funded by councils who should step in and provide somewhere for people to consume cannabis in a safe enviroment."
Last year, Durham Constabulary's Chief Constable Mike Barton called for cannabis to be decriminalised.
He argued the war on dope had only sought to put millions of pounds into the hands of criminals, and followed similar calls from the likes of ex-Tory leader William Hague.
However, the drug remains a illegal, with hundreds prosecuted in the North East each year.
A recent ChronicleLive investigation found many of those were still in Durham.
A venue for the club is still being sought.
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