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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Hundreds march for cannabis legalisation
Cannabis march
Fewer people joined the march than had been expected
More than 600 people have taken part in a march in Manchester to support the legalisation of cannabis.

The event on Saturday was designed to mark World Cannabis Action Day and was mirrored around the world, billed as the Million Marijuana March.

Police presence was strong partly because many more people had been expected to join the event.

They said that if they saw protesters smoking the drug they would not arrest them, but would instead quietly ask them to stop.

Cannabis 'industry'

The march held up traffic in the city centre but there was no trouble or arrests.

The protesters converged on Whitworth Park, where there was music and entertainment.

Many people were there to support Colin Davies, the Stockport cannabis cafe owner who is currently on remand in prison.

Jonjo Nally, of the Manchester Cannabis Coalition, said they also wanted to draw attention to the other uses of cannabis, including for medicine and hemp clothing.

"We want to show that there is an industry that can be born from this," he said.

Marches are expected to take place in more than 30 other countries including the US, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France.

Lambeth experiment

A similar march was held in the London borough of Lambeth, where police have been pioneering a "softly, softly" approach to cannabis.

Those found with small amounts of cannabis may be warned and have their drug confiscated, but they will not face arrest.

The government has recently said it was "minded" to downgrade cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug.

If it did so, users could be free to smoke it in public without fear of arrest.

But the Million Marijuana March organisers say this would not be enough.

Its website says: "The recent progress towards de facto decriminalisation in Britain is to be welcomed but is clearly not the full solution.

"Only a complete, total lifting of prohibition will do. Anything less is simply a half-way house which fails to protect the public."

The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"The event passed off peacefully"
Manchester Cannabis Coalition Jonjo Nally
"I have been really overwhelmed by the amount of support"
Father of a drug victim Steve Ramsbottom
"If you legalise it [Cannabis] will finish up with more heroin addicts"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | England
Seven held in cannabis café raid
04 Apr 02 | England
'Significant' cannabis farm found
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