Cannabis club founder wants to set up more across UK  | Daily Mail Online UK

Michael Fisher set up Teesside Cannabis Club. North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones visited the Middlesbrough-based club on Saturday to talk about how it works.

  • Michael Fisher set up Teesside Cannabis Club to allow people to smoke cannabis
  • He believes the ‘Club Exhale’ model – which allows up to 180 people to use cannabis in a safe and controlled space – could be replicated across the UK 
  • North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones visited the Middlesbrough-based club to talk about how it set up, and how it works 
  • He said: ‘Why shouldn’t consenting adults be able to use cannabis recreationally’

A cannabis club charges £35-a-year for people to smoke drugs and play pool in a scheme backed by police in a UK first.

Michael Fisher set up Teesside Cannabis Club four years ago, and says ‘the world is a very different place’ since then. The ‘legal’ club is based in Durham Constabulary’s policing area – one of five forces in Britain which no longer actively pursues cannabis smokers and small-scale growers.

The club has been visited by celebrities including Professor Green and Jeremy Kyle. Buying and selling drugs at the club – a registered company – is prohibited, but it makes money through the sale of tickets to special events and refreshments, and can make up to £3,000 a night.

Mr Fisher, also known as John Holliday, has been a longstanding campaigner for cannabis to be de-criminalised and believes the ‘Club Exhale’ model – which allows up to 180 people to use cannabis in a safe and controlled space – could be replicated across the UK.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones visited the Middlesbrough-based club to learn about how it works – and he backed the scheme.

The club has been visited by celebrities including Professor Green

Jeremy Kyle at the club

The club has been visited by celebrities including Professor Green and Jeremy Kyle (left and right, with Mr Fisher)

Michael Fisher set up Teesside Cannabis Club four years ago, and says 'the world is a very different place' since then

Michael Fisher set up Teesside Cannabis Club four years ago, and says ‘the world is a very different place’ since then

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'Club Exhale' model - which allows up to 180 people to use cannabis in a safe and controlled space

‘Club Exhale’ model – which allows up to 180 people to use cannabis in a safe and controlled space

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones visited the Middlesbrough-based club on Saturday to talk about how it set up, and how it works

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones visited the Middlesbrough-based club on Saturday to talk about how it set up, and how it works

He said: ‘What we’ve had here is a lot of success, in 14 months, where we’ve gone from about 60 to 70 members to around 180 people.

‘The conversation around cannabis is changing and it is becoming more acceptable to talk about. We don’t feel the need to hide in the shadows about it.

‘Something I would like to see is more clubs, across the country. Ron Hogg (Police and Crime Commissioner in Durham) and I have a very good relationship, and I think it would be logical for one to open there. One in North Wales as well.

‘Then in 12 months time, we would have a strong evidence base to take to Government and show them how this model works.’

Mr Fisher, 33, claimed cannabis is the ‘world’s most valuable resource’ and believes the Government is missing out on a multi-billion pound industry.

He says tax from potential controlled sales of cannabis at clubs like on Teesside – and others across the UK – could go to the Treasury rather than into the black market, and keep users away from criminal gangs.

Users regularly gather at the Teesside Cannabis Club, and use cannabis in a ‘consumption room’.

Mr Fisher insists there have been no criminal problems linked to the club.

He added: ‘We do not cause any problems or harm. Using cannabis is technically illegal but we have a relationship with the local force, we have never had any issues with disorder at the club or our events, we do not allow alcohol – and it seems that most problems with anti-social and violent behaviour are linked to alcohol.

Mr Fisher insists there have been no criminal problems linked to the club

Mr Fisher insists there have been no criminal problems linked to the club

Mr Jones was the latest visitor, as he coincided his trip with the Hartlepool Utd v Wrexham game at Victoria Park

Mr Jones was the latest visitor, as he coincided his trip with the Hartlepool Utd v Wrexham game at Victoria Park

‘We have a great relationship with our local police force, although they are not as outspoken as some about cannabis use, they’ve been very supportive.

‘We are very open with the police.’

Durham PCC Mr Hogg has worked with the club for a number of years.

Mr Jones was the latest visitor, as he coincided his trip with the Hartlepool Utd v Wrexham game at Victoria Park.

Mr Fisher, 33, claimed cannabis is the 'world's most valuable resource' and believes the Government is missing out on a multi-billion pound industry

Mr Fisher, 33, claimed cannabis is the ‘world’s most valuable resource’ and believes the Government is missing out on a multi-billion pound industry

He has backed the use of cannabis medicinally, and said: ‘I visited Teeside Cannabis Club because I wanted to see how it was run.

‘The members bring their own cannabis, it isn’t grown on the premises and they’re not dealing or supplying.

‘They pay an annual membership fee to be a member of what is a social club where they go to use cannabis.

‘There are 150 members paying £35 a year and why not? There are pubs and clubs where people go and drink alcohol so why shouldn’t consenting adults be able to use cannabis recreationally and without causing anyone any harm and the location is such that there is no NIMBYism.’

Cleveland Police said in 2015 it would continue to ‘operate within the law as it exists’ when it comes to dealing with drug crime – despite plans by Durham to stop actively pursuing low-key cannabis users.

Avon & Somerset Police, Dorset, Derbyshire and Surrey Police have taken a similar stance on cannabis smoking.

WHICH POLICE FORCES TURN A BLIND EYE TO CANNABIS SMOKING?

The latest figures available show that more than two million people in England and Wales smoke cannabis.

Crime Survey figures show a million of these are aged between 16 to 24.

The substance is currently a Class B drug in the UK, and anyone found in possession can face up to five years in prison.

Selling the drug can get someone 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. The same punishment exists for giving it to friends for free.

It is illegal to be under the influence of cannabis while driving, and can result in a prison sentence and disqualification.

On the streets, the average price of an ounce of cannabis tends to be in the region of £200. This is often enough for 40 joints, depending on how strongly people roll them.

Reports suggest that around 270 tons of cannabis is consumed every year in Britain – which would equate to around £8.6 million at the aforementioned pricing. Some 80 per cent of this is grown here and not imported.

But during 2011/2012, in excess of 1.1million plants were seized by police – with an estimated street value of £207 million.

But five police forces in the UK have relaxed their laws on smoking cannabis and growing it for personal use.

Avon & Somerset Police, Derbyshire, Dorset and Surrey have taken a relaxed stance on cannabis smoking.

A spokesman for Avon & Somerset Police said in 2016: ‘We do not proactively seek out people who use cannabis but we do take a rigorous approach to dealing with anyone found in possession of it and they will always be dealt in one of a number of ways.

‘They will either be offered intervention, such as educational programmes, given a caution, asked to voluntarily attend a police station for interview or they may be arrested.

‘We regularly receive information from the public about suspected cannabis cultivation sites. As the public would expect we research that intelligence and act on what we’re told.’

Source: Cannabis club founder wants to set up more across UK  | Daily Mail Online

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