Cannabis centre to open soon in Weston
- Credit: Stephen Sumner/BBC
A cannabis education centre is taking shape in Weston.
The 'potentially revolutionary' facility will soon open in Station Road in a unit that has stood empty for years.
FACES, or Free Addiction Cannabis Education and Support, is the brainchild of Steve Melhuish - a project manager until his brother, Robert Cox, was stabbed to death in a home for people with drink, drug and mental health issues in 2013.
He is convinced he can make a difference.
FACES, a registered charity, seeks to educate people about cannabis.
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Steve, who grew up in Weston and started smoking it aged 14, said: "I've put two years of stress, blood, sweat and tears into this.
"North Somerset Council gave me lots of grief. It wouldn't talk to me. After the election it said it can go ahead.
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"(Deputy leader) Mike Bell and (leader) Don Davies are good people but there are so many dinosaurs in that council. If it wasn't for the council I would have opened four months ago.
"There are problems in Weston with county lines (drug gangs) and knife crime. By educating kids from a younger age, stabbings will go down. Drug dealing will go down. What we will be doing will be second to none."
The centre will have a test facility, where users will be able to find out exactly what is in the drugs they buy.
Downstairs there will be a café with games consoles and a pool table.
Steve said everything will be above board.
He said: "We're going to allow cannabis on site but there will be no selling, and there will be strict guidelines. It will be for the adult evenings. We will be within the legal guidelines. The only thing that will be illegal will be possession."
Steve and the people helping him realise his vision will be able to draw on some heartbreaking personal experiences.
He said: "My brother started smoking cannabis when he was young.
"He had major issues. He was massively addicted to it. [The cannabis he smoked] affected what was already there. He had schizophrenia. It brought it out of him.
"This all came about after he was stabbed. I decided I wanted to do something to educate cannabis users. I was working in logistics but lost my passion for it. I needed something to occupy my brain.
"I've suffered from all sorts of mental health issues. My use is under control now. I'm 38. I'm not trying to show off to anyone. I will be able to pass what I've learned on to kids - about how to get out of that hole.
"This place will be somewhere to come and learn self-defence instead of using knives, or the benefits and dangers of cannabis. We're going to have a 420 radio station, art exhibitions, live music and comedy nights, a mentoring room."
Lin Toulcher, an artist who has rallied a host of renowned artists to decorate the centre, said: "This is long overdue. There are no youth clubs. This is giving kids somewhere to go, but more importantly it allows parents and siblings to be there with them.
"It will bring back that old-fashioned social framework. It's a safe place.
"If you stand outside any fast food outlet in this town you can see kids as young as 10 selling drugs. That's where county lines come in, gangs asking them to carry a package.
"I see it all over the place. It's shocking what goes on in Weston."
Lin will help out as a mentor and is training to be a counsellor.
In a way, the centre will build on her own experience looking after Weston lads she dubbed the 'lost boys'.
She said: "When my son was at home he was going through various teenage problems. I didn't want him out on the streets, so I made my home almost like a drop-in centre.
"I'd rather he and his friends be at home where they can chat and chill. They couldn't do anything I hadn't done in the past. It was pure chaos at the start."