A cannabis club has paid tribute to a former police boss by dedicating a branded grinder to him.
The grinder, a tool used in the preparation of cannabis, has been named “the Hogg” in honour of former Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg.
Mr Hogg, Durham’s PCC until he died in 2019, had advocated for the Teesside Cannabis Club.
The PCC, known for what some said was a radical approach to drugs policy, died of motor neurone disease (MND) in 2019.
Cleveland Police said it took illegal drugs seriously and continued to enforce the law.
The club’s owner said some profits from the grinder would be given to a MND charity.
Teesside Cannabis Club began as an outdoor event organisation in about 2014 before its first premises was opened on an industrial estate in Middlesbrough.
In 2018 it moved to Stockton’s high street with the front of the venue selling rolling papers and CBD products, while the back – reserved for paying members – is a consumption room.
Inside the club, reggae music plays, a disco ball hangs from the ceiling and a thick haze of cannabis smoke fills the room.
Club owner Michael Fisher describes it as a place to chill out without judgement, but added his team also aimed to reduce the harms associated with drugs.
Vaping is encouraged as a safer alternative to smoking, but for those using spliffs, a tobacco alternative is endorsed by staff.
Mr Fisher said the club had more than 630 active members, ranging from people working in regular jobs to pensioners.
Cleveland Police said inquiries were made to determine the most appropriate action if someone was found possessing cannabis – a Class B drug.
However, Mr Fisher said he believed the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in 2018 had changed things.
“It’s no longer a case of cannabis being illegal in our eyes, it’s just unlicensed,” he said.
Aside from the obvious use of illicit substances, Mr Fisher said he believed there was “no real criminality involved”.
The cannabis club was established with the guidance of Mr Hogg, someone Mr Fisher described as having been “a friend and a mentor”.
During Mr Hogg’s time as PCC the Durham force had been rated “outstanding” four times by government inspectors.
His approach to drugs policy reform was described by some as being radical.
Mr Hogg died in December 2019, aged 68, several months after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
He was posthumously appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for charitable and political services.
“Through meeting with him, we managed to create what we have here today.
“I like to think of this as his lasting legacy. I do genuinely feel him here.”
Mr Hogg’s widow Maureen said her husband had been “very proud” of Mr Fisher and would have enjoyed the idea of somebody thinking of him as they ground cannabis.
“He would have appreciated that,” she said.
“He was as straight as a die and he never took a drug in his life but he loved Scottish whisky.