'˜Prison time will not stop my fight for cannabis'
A second spell in prison has persuaded dedicated cannabis smoker Mike Dobson to give up growing the drug, but he has vowed not to give up his fight to set up a Preston Cannabis Club.
Cannabis campaigner Mike Dobson has vowed to give up growing the drug after a sobering second spell in prison.
But the 39-year-old is refusing to abandon his fight to become a legalised producer – even though it means taking on the might of the Home Office and the judiciary.
“I’m 100 per cent convinced we will win,” said Mike, at home in Bamber Bridge.
“I have done enough research on it to see it can’t be any other way. There is no reason for them to refuse my application.”
The founder of the Preston Cannabis Club has been using the drug since he was a teenager. He wants the right to manufacture it under licence and also to supply small amounts of it to club members.
He is waiting to hear if he will be allowed an appeal after being refused a licence by the Home Office and a subsequent judicial review by a judge.
But while the process grinds on, Mike is adamant that, after two spells behind bars for cultivation, he won’t be going back for a third spell.
“I’m not going to grow it anymore, even though I believe I have a lawful right to do that,” he said.
“I spent just short of four months in Preston Prison and I was absolutely shocked by what was going on in there. When people say drugs are available in jail they aren’t kidding.
“But the big drug in prison isn’t cannabis anymore, it’s Spice - what was once called a legal high.”
Mike says illegal cannabis cultivation in the city of Preston is “absolutely huge.”
“It’s a multi-million pound market just in Preston,” he said. “The hydroponics industry is massive.
“I was out Christmas shopping and you could smell the stuff everywhere. A mate of mine, who isn’t from round here, calls it ‘Preston deodorant.’
“That’s changed since the days when I started using it. Back then you went away and did it in private, either at home or somewhere where you couldn’t be seen.
“But people just walk around in public smoking it now. There’s so much of the stuff about. Most only have it for personal use and they aren’t harming anyone else.
“We have to ask the question: Do we want the cost of prosecuting all these people or do we want to regulate it, where the money wouldn’t be going to criminal gangs?
“Personally I can’t see any other way forward that benefits the general public. Canada is in the process of legalising the market, where people can just walk into shops to buy it for recreational use.”
Mike insists he will continue campaigning against the UK’s strict rules on cannabis even though he was refused a licence to produce it by the Home Office and then had his plea for a judicial review rejected by a judge.
He has appealed that decision and is now waiting on a date for a hearing before the High Court’s Civil Appeals Division in London.
But after continual resistance from the authorities he said: “They are just putting obstacles in my way to try and put me off.
“They think that if they continue to ignore me I will eventually lose interest and give up. But they’re going to get a shock, because I’m not going anywhere.
“I believe very strongly in this case and I’m not giving up. I believe I’m winning the argument and we are slowly getting there.
“My appeal went in while I was inside. I filed the papers from prison.
“But four or five months on I’m told it hasn’t even been referred to a judge.
“I’m not calling for a change in the law to legalise cannabis, like other campaign groups. I just want the Home Office to do its job in accordance with the law as it stands now and grant me the licence I have a right to.”