A new Harrogate Cannabis Social Club has been formed to join the fight to legalise the drug and is aiming to “ensure and encourage” the safe use of it by residents.
The club is the latest to have formed under the banner of the UK Cannabis Social Club, which aims to represent users and campaign for the Class B drug’s decriminalisation.
Despite the fact that growing and possessing cannabis is illegal in Britain, the HCSC has claimed its use across Harrogate is prevalent and needs to be regulated.
HCSC has officially formed after being inspired by an event in Leeds’ Hyde Park, where thousands of users congregated publicly to smoke cannabis as part of the global pro-weed event ‘4/20’.
The club’s leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said the group aims to organise events in the town to “communicate and educate” residents on the drug’s use.
He said: “Cannabis use in Harrogate is high and needs to be taken away from the black market. It’s no surprise when you smell it as you walk through town.
“There needs to be a strategy in Harrogate to make sure everyone can enjoy it safely. We want to build a profile and speak to the local Police and Crime Commissioner and the local MP.
“We want to get rid of the stigma surrounding it. There are even smoke friendly places down in London so if we can emulate that there will be a massive boost to our economy.
“Generally, we’ve seen the police force in Harrogate treat cannabis users with respect and we want to reach out to them too.”
However, a Harrogate Police spokesperson said the force would “continue to uphold the law as it stands”, which includes the law on drugs.
Cannabis is currently a Class B Drug, with the Government explaining it causes “huge mental health problems and addiction”. As such, Ministers say they have no intention of changing cannabis laws.
North Yorkshire Horizons, a drug and alcohol recovery service, also warned that many clients who used cannabis suffered with mental health issues.
A spokesperson for the service said: “Commonly, our cannabis users have issues with mental health which can be caused by their cannabis use, or they may have a mental health condition and are using cannabis to self-medicate.
“In both cases, North Yorkshire Horizons provide guidance and support on the best ways of addressing issues surrounding cannabis use.”
However, HCSC believes its legalisation would replace the black market with safer regulated outlets that require proof of age of purchase.
Despite having the “best interests” of Harrogate cannabis users at heart, the group’s leader said he did expect there to be some opposition from people in the town.
He said: “We know that cannabis use goes on in Harrogate because you find bags on the floor or a lingering smell so we want people to be safe whilst doing it.
“However, we don’t sell cannabis or encourage any street dealing or provide links. We are purely about changing the image and reputation of cannabis users to fight back against the proliferated propaganda.
“We’ve had nobody say anything negative about the project; people have said how much of a good idea it is. But I do expect there to be some opposition in Harrogate, I’m not denying that.
“But we want people to not be scared to say that they use cannabis and show local people how it can help their area when it is taxed and regulated.”