Pubdate: Sat, 04 May 2002
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Limited


Thousands of pro-cannabis demonstrators held peaceful marches in
Britain's largest cities on Saturday before letting their hair down at
a series of outdoor parties, picnics and festivals.

The marches in London, Manchester and Birmingham to push for the
legalisation of cannabis were part of almost 200 similar events
planned around the world this weekend under the name of the "Million
Marijuana March."

"The march is to protest for legalisation and the festival is a
celebration of cannabis," said Shane Collins, licensee for the
Cannabis Carnival in Brixton, south London.

Collins estimated the British cannabis trade to be worth six billion
pounds a year, adding it provided thousands of Britons with jobs.

"We want to put the profits from that into where they are needed --
youth services and residential rehab," he told the BBC.

A police spokeswoman said they did not have a estimate of crowd
numbers but said the marches were trouble free and the crowds had
dispersed by early evening.

The marches came as the government contemplated downgrading cannabis
to class C, the least serious drug category, and as police around the
country review their approach to the drug.

The "softly, softly" approach to cannabis was this week endorsed by
Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers.

The London march ended up in the suburb of Brixton, which is the scene
of a police experiment on cautioning rather than arresting cannabis
smokers, an approach pioneered by controversial police chief Brian

Paddick -- Britain's highest ranking openly gay officer -- is being
investigated by the Police Complaints Authority over allegations he
regularly smoked cannabis with former lover James Renolleau.

A poll last month for Britain's Observer newspaper said 51 percent of
the nation's 16- to 24-year-olds had taken banned drugs, while five
million people regularly use cannabis.

Before the march, Collins said the protest was not aimed at promoting
the drug to teenagers. "We don't want more youths smoking it," he
said. "It's good for writing, but it's not conducive to studying. And
anyway, smoking too much of it can turn you into a very boring person." 
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