Weed. Pot. Marijuana. Puff. Green. Sweet Mary Jane. Rastafarian Old Holborn. Whatever you call cannabis, you can’t help but notice that it’s everywhere in Canterbury these days.
Streets on housing estates reek of it, the public parks are positively overwhelmed by it, and even the pubs stink of it – which is why yours truly has found himself writing about it.
Well, I say pubs, but actually it’s those who use pubs that pong of it. It strikes me as extraordinary that people can wander into a pub smelling to high heaven of the stuff and not give a hoot what anyone thinks
They’re basically advertising the fact that they’ve committed a crime. Yes, strange as it may seem given the lax attitude to toking the odd doobie or pulling a bong, possession of cannabis is a criminal offence.
And that, ladies and gents, is the rub. Possession these days is essentially decriminalised. Our city even has its very own Canterbury Cannabis Club, which recently went to Westminster to lobby politicians.
Like America and Canada, there is a movement to get the stuff legalised here – both for medicinal and recreational purposes.
This has been discussed in the House of Commons – and many in Canterbury are declaring they want cannabis use made lawful.
Janie, a 23-year-old city centre resident, has been smoking cannabis since she was 15. “Weed has been a big part of my life for a long time,” she said.
“It’s everywhere in Canterbury, we’re weed central and no one I know who smokes even acts like they’re doing anything wrong.
“The truth is it might as well be legal. I smoke it because I enjoy it, but we know that there are health benefits to it as well.”
Jake, 19, says the drug is prevalent in city schools. “Some kids just smoked it at the far end of the playing field, but others brought it in to sell,” he told the Journal.
“It was the same when I went to college. You couldn’t smoke it on site, but we just used to go up the road and do it.
“No one ever bothered us, which is amazing because this stuff stinks.”
Most cannabis smoked in Canterbury is the potent skunk variety, which has a high concentration of THC, the psychoactive element of the drug.
But not everyone is happy about the legalisation movement.
Laura Riding, a 29-year-old expectant mother from Wincheap, is opposed.
She said: “I think it’ll increase the number of people smoking it by making it socially acceptable, like areas of Canada where people started smoking it openly and regularly once it had been legalised.”
Cannabis use has also been linked to mental health issues, a point regularly raised by journalist Peter Hitchens.
Barton ward councillor Steve Williams is also against its legalisation.
He said: “Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health. Indeed the NHS has issued several warnings about health risks linked to cannabis use.
“It also cannot be guaranteed that the only person impacted by cannabis is the smoker – second hand, or passive inhalation simply cannot be stopped.”
Canterbury’s only ever “head shop”, Skunkworks in Northgate, shut down several years ago after a campaign against.
But other shops in the city continue to sell cannabis paraphernalia such as bongs, king-size rolling papers and pipes.
And that leaves many smokers wondering if they can buy the equipment legally, then why can’t they buy the drug.