A COMMUNITY of people who believe cannabis should be legalised are set to hold their first-ever protest picnic in Basingstoke – possibly putting them on a collision course with the police.

Hampshire Cannabis Community has organised the event in Eastrop Park on September 21 from 1pm to 6pm. The group has held similar protests in other areas, and is now coming to Basingstoke to make its views known.

A poster advertising the event says: “We want to prove that cannabis can be consumed safely, peacefully and responsibly in public without causing any harm to society.

“We want to demonstrate that cannabis is a safer alternative to more harmful but legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco.”

The event will include music, prizes, stalls, a raffle and education about cannabis. On the group’s website, it says the aim is to “prove that cannabis consumers are peaceful, harmless and responsible adults who do not deserve to be branded criminals for exercising what should be our rights.”

It adds: “By coming together to consume cannabis safely in a public environment, we will demonstrate that prohibition is causing more destruction to society than the plant itself ever could, and we will be calling for more education, awareness and careful consideration surrounding the urgent need for drug law reform in our country.”

So far, more than 40 people have said they are attending on a Facebook event page. Speakers at the event will include Clark French, founder of UK Cannabis Social Clubs.

Emma Wilson, from Hampshire Cannabis Community, who is organising the event, said: “We strongly encourage anyone who has any interest in the issues surrounding cannabis law to join us. The more support in numbers we have on the day, the stronger we stand up to the ignorance of our government.”

Chief Inspector Steve Wallace, of Basingstoke police, said officers are aware of the planned protest. He added: “Working in partnership with our colleagues at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, we will facilitate a peaceful and lawful protest.

“However, this is a popular leisure venue in Basingstoke which is used by children and families, so we hope their use of the park will not be disrupted by this event.

“Smoking cannabis in a public place is illegal and anyone found breaking the law will be dealt with appropriately.”

Councillor Clive Sanders, leader of the borough council, said the group needs written permission to hold an event in the council-owned park. He added: “We are always happy to work with people and to be as helpful as we can, but so far, we have not received an application in regards to this proposed event.

“However, we have a duty of care to safeguard children and their interests within what is a family park, and we will take whatever action is necessary to protect those interests, along with supporting the police in any action against those committing illegal activities or anti-social behaviour. We hope that if this event does take place, it is both peaceful and legal.”